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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Fort Bliss Memorial Service for Members of 507th Maintenance Company Killed in Iraq

Aired April 11, 2003 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I am Wolf Blitzer. You're looking now at a live picture of a memorial service at Fort Bliss, Texas for nine Army soldiers killed in action in Iraq. All nine were members of the 507th Maintenance Company which is based at Fort Bliss. Five members of the 507th are now listed as POWs, prisoners of war.
You may recall these soldiers were killed and captured when the convoy they were in were ambushed near the town of Nasiriya last month. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining now from Fort Bliss. This service is already underway -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'm just outside of the building where the services is being held. And I couldn't see the shot there, but if you can get an idea, there are about 1,000 people inside this building to pay their respects to the nine soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company.

And they're motto's very simple: Just Fix It. This group of soldiers did't expect to be on the front lines.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAJ. DAVE EPPERSON, CHAPLIAN: ... southwest Asia. And now, oh Lord, we placed specifically the soldiers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) members of the 507th Maintenance Company.

BLITZER: Oh. Let's go to the invocation right now. That's -- the service is now underway.

EPPERSON: ... for a friend and we know that our fallen comrades that we honor today have not just fought and died for their country but they fought and died for their fellow soldiers in defense of our nation.

And so we ask for your comfort, dear Lord, on the family members of the 507th who are experiencing a great sense of loss. And please comfort and strengthen us all as an Army and as a nation and to never forget the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters in arms.

And now, oh Lord, may we hear your encouraging words once again that in the world we will have tribulation but to be a good cheer for you have overcome the world. Amen.

(SINGING) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please be seated.

MAJ. WALTER HOSKINS, CHAPLAIN: In times of grief and mourning we turn to God for comfort. God comforts us through the scriptures, which reminds us in the 23rd Psalm that the Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his namesake. Yea and though I walk from the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou prepares the table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointus my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

SGT. KRISTINE HADANO, U.S. ARMY: Those of us here have watched Operation Iraqi Freedom unfold live in our living rooms on television. And with each day's news you can't help but be amazed by the number of unique military organizations and Army units that are all players on the team fighting for liberty in that distant land. The 507th Maintenance Company is one of those essential players on that Army team. Its contributions are absolutely critical to keeping the patriot force running in combat operations. While the 507th is proud of its association with its patriot brethren, it is deservedly proud of its uniqueness. There are only nine other maintenance companies like it in our Army. Today we celebrate the lives of our fallen teammates in the 507th and what they mean to all of us.

Newbies always breathe some freshness into a unit. Private Ruben Estrella-Soto was serious about his job and always willing to lend a hand. Known in the unit as star, he never gave up on anything whether it was a task or an individual and loved to be in charge when the opportunity came. An El Paso native, Private Estrella was looking forward to being married when he re-deployed home.

Family played an important role in Private Brandon Sloan's life. With his friends, he frequently spoke fondly of his family and his hometown. He was eager to learn and to help his fellow soldiers in any way that he could. Brandon's lighthearted humor will be missed. His positive attitude shown by his ever present smile was an inspiration to all of his peers.

For a long time, the soldiers in 507th will still hear the echoes of Private 1st Class Howard Johnson calling them troop. One of the three Johnsons in the company, HoJo was admired by all who knew him for his outgoing well-mannered and easygoing demeanor. A deeply religious man, Private 1st Class Johnson made an indelible mark on the company in both his exceptional performance of duty and in the example he set for others.

Jamaal Addison set the standard for quiet competence. It seemed he knew the right way to perform ever task assigned to him. Specialist Addison was always willing to go the extra mile to help his fellow soldiers whether it was on the job or off. A genuinely spiritual man, his peaceful and easygoing manner will be dearly missed by his many friends. Specialist James Kiehl truly showed everyone how to adapt and overcome. Although a computer repairer by MOS, Specialist Kiehl enthusiastically approached his assignment as the fuel handler. His fellow soldiers will always remember his work ethic, his willingness to help others, and his love of fast cars. He was proud to be deployed with the best yet eagerly anticipated his homecoming to see his wife and his first child soon to come into the world.

It seemed like everyone in the company knew Specialist Lori Piestewa. Maybe it was because Pie, as she was known, worked in the orderly room but whatever the reason, no one will forget the broad smile and friendly disposition that she brought to work everyday. She loved her car, was proud of her Native American heritage and very close with her family.

Sergeant Walters demonstrated to us what leaders should be. Squared away in every sense, the soldiers gravitated to Donald Walters wanting to pick up some words of advice, maybe something he learned during the first Gulf War or maybe something he learned in his former life as a police officer. The company cook fed the soldiers a little more than just their daily rations.

First Sergeant was cut from a similar mold, the epitome of a non- commissioned officer and a soldier. To 1st Sergeant Robert Dowdy, the soldiers came first because he knew that without the soldiers the mission wouldn't get done. His soldiers respected him for his competence and fairness, loved him for his selflessness and caring and appreciated him for his humor.

We finally remember Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Mata. He always led from the front. Whether he was out front on our company runs, no one could run as fast, or in his coveralls performing maintenance with his soldiers, Chief was always there working long and hard, leading and mentoring the soldiers, teaching them, listening to them, caring.

On Wednesday we all watched on television as our Marines helped the liberated citizens of Iraq tear down the statue of Saddam in downtown Baghdad. Liberation comes to Iraq through the determination of a mighty coalition team of fighting men and women. The 507th played and continues to play its part on that team. So today we beam with pride when you say first you fire swift and sure, train to fight and always prepared and then for the 507th we stand just a little bit straighter and hold our heads a little higher and say just fix it.

LT. COL. THOMAS DRAKE, CHAPLAIN: Please join with me as we bow our heads in prayer and place our hearts in the hand of God.

Our most loving and gracious heavenly father, let this day be a day when a grateful nation commemorates and honors those who sacrificed their lives in order to give others liberty and to keep our nation secure. Lord we come to you at this hour feeling the anguish of our loss. Our hearts are heavy. The separation is painful and we hurt at the deepest levels of our being. Lord as we weep in sorrow for the loss of relatives, friends and fellow soldiers, that in this hour of suffering we will not be overcome by sadness and despair but continue to have faith in victory of good over evil and eternal life over death. Lord may you fill the emptiness in our lives with your divine presence and bring us the assurance and peace that we need in order to face the reality of death and through our tears and through our sorrow, may we see a renewed vision of hope in tomorrow. We pray that you mend our broken hearts by holding us close to yours. Lord, as soldiers and members of a grateful nation, may we dedicate our lives to continued service and the highest ideals as a tribute to our fallen soldiers.

We thank you God for empowering us to be such as resilient people, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console. Lord, as we look at our flag, let the blue remind us of those who continue the mission to liberate, the red for all the lives lost too soon, the white for your peace that surpasses all understanding for the days to come and the stars to remind us that we are one nation under thee. Lord, because of the example of the selfless service of our fallen peers, we soldiers who yet live renew our commitment to redeeming every waking moment to bring peace and hope to our families, our nation, and the world. Heavenly father, for it is in your most holy and precious name that we do pray. Amen.

(SINGING)

COL. ROBERT WOODS JR., U.S. ARMY: On behalf of the Fort Bliss community, I welcome our distinguished guests and most importantly our family members here today. I must also mention that today we have received letters from dignitaries in the Department of Defense, a very moving message from Robert Wriggs (ph) of CBS Dallas, the embedded reporter with the 507th and families, we will be giving you copies of those. We also received a personal phone call from Lieutenant Colonel Fashetti (ph) and Command Sergeant Major McGovern (ph). They're the Commander and the Command Sergeant Major of 552 ADA (ph) to whom the 507th Maintenance Company is assigned. You must know that Colonel Fashetti (ph) and Command Sergeant Major McGovern (ph) love their soldiers and they are heartbroken they are not with us. They are proud of their accomplishments and once the mission is over, they want to come back to have closure with the soldiers' families.

Hello. I am Colonel Bob Woods, Commander of the 35th (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Artillery Brigade and as I stand here today, I am very honored to be able to participate in this memorial ceremony for our loved ones, our heroes, nine soldiers who served with us here at Fort Bliss and who died beside each other on a battlefield in a foreign country. We conduct this ceremony here today to honor them and to provide our support to their families and friends. I also know that there is nothing that I can say that will change what happened. Every one of us wishes that our loved ones, our heroes were back here with us and when a nation goes to war, it is hard on everyone regardless of where they are at. When a nation goes to war, soldiers are deployed on the front lines while families and friends find themselves deployed in front of their television sets desperately wanting to know each and every thing that occurred that day. When a nation is at war, the phrase all gave some but some gave all becomes very real.

The nine memorials that are displayed here today represent some soldiers who were very young and others with many years of experience. I would like to speak to you today as a soldier and share some thoughts of what my fellow soldiers, our loved ones, our heroes might want you to know.

I believe that first and foremost they would ask each and every one of us here today to celebrate their lives and not to focus on their deaths. Remember the good times that you shared with them. Collectively, remember the many years of smiles, of laughter, of how you were there for them and they were there for you through the thick and thin over the years.

They would want you to remember the good times, both before and after they became soldiers, the many years at home where they grew up, the good times in high school, the many discussions at all times of the day and night when our loved ones, our heroes and you helped each other through the daily challenges that everyday life gives us. As soldiers, I believe they would want you to remember the very first time you saw them marching across a parade (ph) field.

Their chests were out. Their chins were high. Their arms went in perfect rhythm with the fellow members of their squad and we know that each and every family member and friend was desperately trying to find their son, their daughter, their friends, their mom, their dad in that formation and once they did, our loved ones, our heroes. They knew that you wanted to shout to the heavens, "There's my son! There's my daughter! There's my friend! There's Dad! There's Mom! Looking good!" The families and friends that watched that formation marched back. They knew that they were something different. They weren't sure what it was but we soldiers knew that our loved ones, our heroes had taken a major step from being young boys and girls into becoming young men and women. They would want you to remember the many stories they told you about life in our Army and we all know that each and every time our loved ones, our heroes tell us those stories, those old drill sergeants got meaner, the food got worse, the field training exercise got longer and the temperature got colder.

You knew they were telling fish stories but that was OK because the laughter and time you shared with them when they told those stories is priceless and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) those soldiers tell is that soldiers of every generation can immediately relate to those experiences. That connection is something that makes life in our Army so very special. Men and women from many different locations and backgrounds, they meet and over time they discover they have a common tradition, one that many men and women have had before them.

It is a tradition that is honorable, a tradition that is immediately understood by anyone that has served in our Army regardless of where or when. It's a tradition that binds soldiers of all generations because all of us know that life in our Army is both rewarding yet very challenging day in and day out. It's a tradition that understands that meeting some challenges may result in a helmet, a rifle, a pair of boots and ID tags displayed as they are here today and all soldiers know what that means to the families and friends of our loved ones, our heroes.

Part of the heritage that we have is the military salute. Saluting is commonplace within life in the U.S. military. We salute those we respect and today I believe it is appropriate for us to salute our loved ones, our heroes. Today we should salute them for their leadership on a battlefield under the worst of conditions. We should salute them for their sense of a duty in a cause that was necessary and difficult.

We should salute them for the respect that they had for each other on and off the battlefield. We should salute them for their selfless service, which resulted in the ultimate sacrifice. We should salute them for their honor that they showed each other. We should salute them for their integrity, for staying sincere until the very end and last but definitely not least, we should salute them for their personal courage. God bless our loved ones, our heroes, their families, their friends. Hooah (ph).

COL. FREDERICK HUDSON, CHAPLAIN: This week every station, every newspaper interrupted their message with the sudden and tragic news of the death of David Bloom, only 39 years of age, NBC News correspondent just 25 miles south of Baghdad. This week in history, Omar Bradley (ph), the last surviving Five Star General died, high profile people. Today we honor nine who were high profile because each was a soldier. I've been asked, "How is the post doing Chaplain?" I've responded, "When you see your own flag at half mast it comes home. When you see a POW flag on your flagpole it comes home."

Strong emotional expressions of shock and grief, however not the same as you family members are experiencing. Maybe the words of an old poem will help to express the feelings that you're having, entitled "The Soldier Boy's Death. The world can never repay what it owes, for my mother feelings nobody knows. The life of my boy is worth more by far than all the victory of this war."

In Sunday's "El Paso Times," the parverse (ph) said of one of these soldiers today, "I'm proud of this boy. He's my baby. He's a soldier." The same article went on to say, "the soldier was many things to different people, a beautiful young man, a prince." I'm here to say to you today that in the eyes of God your soldier is a prince.

Yesterday we all saw the news in Baghdad. The amazing and wonderful success of our soldiers to this point. Your soldier, your soldier is a part of that success. God tells us that the life of a soldier is not just something someone volunteers for, although every one of these volunteered. But he tells us that the life of a soldier is high-profile because it is a special calling. It is an honorable, it is a noble calling.

God says in his word, "the powers that be are ordained of God for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil be afraid, for he beareth not the sword, the sword in vain for he is a minister of God." High-profile people with a calling from God, a soldier. Trained for war and yet establishing peace. Training for war, and the foundation of peace.

Illustrate that with a story. 1888, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, awoke one morning to read in a he newspaper a journalistic error of death in his own obituary. And he read in the paper, the view of his country towards him. He was known as the merchant of death. And from that understanding, from that view that his nation held of him, he went on to establish the Nobel Peace Prize.

Peace is established, peace is established from war. He who knows war and fights to establish peace is a soldier. A Welsh (ph) proverb said, "He that would be a leader must be a bridge." And a bridge to peace is a soldier.

Winston Churchill said, "All the great things are simple and many can be expressed in a single word." Freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope, goals of a soldier. We

honor nine high-profile, each a soldier. Richard Holmes (ph) in his book, "The acts of War: the Behavior of Men in Battle", describes the pressures of soldiers in these words. "A man is not a soldier until he considers his regiment's colors as he would his village steeple. Until he has confidence in his leaders, in his comrades to right and left. Until he loved them. Until they had eaten soot together for a long time."

I can assure you today that your soldier did not die alone because he was a soldier. The soldier said to the individual, Jessica Lynch, "We are United States soldiers and we are here to protect you and take you home."

And the 19-year-old private replied, "I'm an American soldier, too."

Soldiers, we are American soldiers, too. And we are here to take you home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please stand...

BLITZER: That was Colonel Frederick Hudson, the chaplain at Fort Bliss, Texas remembering those killed in the 507th Maintenance Company in Iraq. You're looking at these live pictures of the memorial service that's continuing at Fort Bliss for those nine Army soldiers killed in action in Iraq. All nine were members of the 507th and the five members there -- in addition five members of the 507th are listed as POWs.

You may recall these soldiers were killed and captured when the convoy they were in was ambushed near the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriya. CNN's Ed Lavandera has their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The day before the ground assault launched into Iraq, soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Unit stood in these ranks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember that you're doing it for the United States of America and that is 100 times bigger anything that we could ever want.

LAVANDERA: The dash toward Baghdad was on. The quick move through the desert tested the strength of the supply lines, soldiers were left exhausted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between getting stuck in all that sand several times and getting pulled out and having to stop and police everybody up, it was a long, drawnout process.

LAVANDERA: 507 maintenance soldiers were counted on to keep the supply line moving. U.S. Representative Sylvester Reyes of El Paso has met with two soldiers wounded in the attack from the Fort Bliss maintenance soldiers.

REP. SYLVESTER REYES (D), TEXAS: We, unfortunately, found out the attack strategy of the Iraqis and that was to attack the supply line. A supply line that was very long, that was in its initial stages as we sped towards Baghdad.

LAVANDERA: In the early morning hours of March 23 outside Nasiriya, initial reports suggested the maintenance soldiers had made a wrong turn and drove into an Iraqi ambush.

GEN. HOWARD BROMBERG, U.S. ARMY: Took a turn and they realized there were sandbags (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the road ditches and heavy weapons began firing. And they returned fire, very valiantly, very brave soldiers, fought very well.

LAVANDERA: But some family members of the soldiers say they've heard that the 507th Maintenance Company did not make a wrong turn.

HECTOR PEREZ, RELATIVE OF 507TH SOLDIER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stayed behind you know fixing up some other vehicle that you know with troubles so they stayed there.

REYES: They were trying to catch up to the main convoy, to the big convoy when they were ambushed.

LAVANDERA: Whether or not they were left behind is not yet clear. U.S. military officials have said that, quote, "an irregular Iraqi force attacked the soldiers on a bridge." But some say that a irregular label doesn't give the Iraqi force enough credit.

REYES: If they were irregulars they fought very fiercely. They were well coordinated. From what the sergeants tell me the ambush was well executed.

LAVANDERA: The Iraqi force fought off a U.S. Marine unit that rescued several wounded soldiers and two dead soldiers. But the Iraqis captured 15 troops from the 507th Maintenance Company, nine of those soldiers were killed, one has been rescued and there are five still listed as prisoners of war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: CNN's Ed Lavandera reporting from Fort Bliss, Texas.

Another member of the 507th Army, Private 1st Class Jessica Lynch is expected to return to the United States from Germany tomorrow. Lynch's recovering from injuries at an American hospital in Landstuhl. She was captured during that March 23 ambush and rescued 10 days later in a daring operation by American forces. Officials say she'll receive further treatment at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

We'll be back with much more on the war in Iraq. All that coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the war in Iraq. Here's what's happening right now. Civil unrest in the cities. Arab news media reports some Iraqis are trying to restore order themselves. Regular citizens chased looters today, even beat them up in front of TV cameras. These vigilantes are telling the international news media the looters do not represent ordinary, law- abiding citizens.

Also caught on camera, fires. Iraqis set ablaze banks and government buildings including the Ministry of Planning.

Meantime, progress on the mystery of Saddam Hussein's fate. CNN has learned U.S. intelligence officers are analyzing evidence from that bombed building in Baghdad's Mansour (ph) neighborhood where Saddam Hussein may, may have been that day of the bombing. Senior administration sources tell CNN's John King they have no evidence that Saddam Hussein died in that bombing.

More now on the situation on the streets of Baghdad. CNN's Christiane Amanpour is in the Iraqi capital. Here's a report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. Marines patrol some of the city streets. They are greeted as liberators, especially by those who themselves are liberating anything they can get their hands on. From government buildings to private businesses and homes. It is an extraordinary sight. Instead of trying to stop it, the new force in town waves to the Iraqis who cheerfully trundle by with all their booty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much!

AMANPOUR: One of today's rich targets, the Al Rasheed Hotel, long the refuge of international journalists and dignitaries visiting Baghdad during Saddam's iron fist rule. Today it is stripped bare. TV sets walk out the front door. Hotel room minibars ripped from the walls, and even tennis rackets. Does their new owner really have a game of doubles planned? What is going on here? A rare answer from one of the looters.

"We are Iraqis but we have never shared in our country's resources. We watched for so many years as the government and rich men ate and slept while we went hungry."

Outside, it is the wild West. Store owners taking the law into their own hands. And at the mosques on this first Friday prayer since the liberation of Baghdad, not politics, but urgent appeals to stop the looting.

"Do you know what you're stealing," asked Sheikh Mohammed (ph)? "You must defend your neighbor's home as your own. We must all help each other."

Women rock with tears and fear about first the bomb damage and now the threat to their lives and meager livelihood.

The woes of a city welder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have many tools in the shop. I am afraid maybe today, maybe tomorrow that this broken the door and stole all my tools.

AMANPOUR: Another blames Saddam Hussein for unleashing this orgy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He steal the money of the Iraqi people, the resources of the Iraqi people. He is a killer. He is a dictator.

AMANPOUR: The dictator may be gone, but at another mosque across town, Mohammed al Baca (ph), the imam there, has this warning for the new powers that be.

"Under cover of removing Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction," he says, "The American and British have come to our country with what objective, to liberate us? What liberation is this? What kind of freedom have they brought us?"

They may have been freed from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, but the people say that unless order is restored quickly, they are not yet enjoying freedom from fear itself.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Bush administration says the looting in Iraq is part of the transition from decades of repression. The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calls it a temporary problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: It's untidy, and freedom's untidy and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush today visited two military hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area to meet and honor troops recovering from war wounds. This as the White House tackles criticism that the situation in Iraq is spinning, perhaps, out of control. Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Chris Burns -- Chris. CHRIS BURNS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president going to spend the weekend at Camp David. But before he left for Camp David he did go to two military hospitals here in the Washington area. Off-camera meeting some dozens of troops who were injured in the conflict, some of them receiving Purple Hearts, two of them getting U.S. citizenship. And the president thanking them, but also saying the war is not over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNS (voice-over): It was the president's first visit to those wounded in the conflict to express his thanks.

BUSH: It's a brave lot here in Bethesda. People who were willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves.

BURNS: The White House declared Friday that Saddam Hussein's regime has ended.

BUSH: I don't think I'll ever forget and I'm sure a lot of other people will never forget the statue of Saddam Hussein falling, Baghdad and then seeing the jubilation on the faces of ordinary Iraqis.

BURNS: But President Bush's holding off on a formal address to the American people while fighting continues in Iraq.

BUSH: This war will end when our commanders in the field tell me that the objective has been achieved.

BURNS: But regime death hasn't yet brought regime change. As anarchy reins in much of Iraq the White House is deflecting criticism that after winning the war, the peace is unraveling.

The Bush administration expressed understanding of the looting and unrest without forgiving it. The White House lashed back at critics who demand quicker moves to establish security and a interim government, indicating they don't want to say "I told you so" again.

FLEISCHER: This is almost starting to remind me of the stories that says the forces are bogged down.

BURNS: The White House spokesman also contends living conditions aren't as dire as some portray.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNS: The Bush administration is cautioning against overacting to some of those images of chaos in Iraq, saying that they need time to create this interim government and they're trying to -- they're aiming to head off criticism saying that -- from critics who say that the U.S.-led coalition may have won the war, but it could end up losing the peace -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Burns at the White House. Thanks, Chris, very much. Fate unknown, but not forgotten. Honoring the POWs from the Army's Maintenance Company at Fort Bliss, Texas that was ambushed last month. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KIMBERLY MILLER, SISTER OF POW: It was hard.

BLITZER (voice-over): Other POW relatives can only mirror the sentiments of Private 1st Class Patrick Miller's family.

Then they think of PFC Jessica Lynch. Part of the 507th, Lynch fought next to their loved ones on that fateful day in Iraq. One woman from that unit, Lori Piestewa was killed. Lynch, captured then rescued.

Another woman specialist Shoshana Johnson still considered a POW.

CLAUDE JOHNSON, FATHER OF POW: As I've said previously, it's not just about Shoshana, it's about all of the prisoners that are over there. And I hope and pray that each and every one of them could come home safe just like Jessica did.

BLITZER: For now, that hope may sustain these relatives, but on this day, as their fallen comrades are remembered, the POWs' families and so many Americans must endure the image they cannot shake. Five young people, far away, terrified, fate unknown.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just a few moments ago there were more emotional scenes from Fort Bliss, Texas today. A 21-gun salute and "Taps."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Please stay with CNN throughout the night for up to the minute coverage. I'll be back in one hour for two hours of special coverage with Paula Zahn. I'll be back Sunday on "LATE EDITION" as well. A special interview with General Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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