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Plains States under Storm Watches and Warnings; Defense Secretary Ash Carter Speaks about Fall of Ramadi to ISIS; Lebron James Calls on the Protesters; General Motors Failure to Disclose Ignition Switch Defect Led to 100 Deaths; Remembering Memorial Day 2006 Blast in Baghdad. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 24, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:16] POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: 5:00 p.m. eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow, joining us live from New York this Sunday evening and we begin in Iraq.
A key city in Iraq is now under full control of the terrorist group ISIS. And it is the Iraqi army's fault. That is what the U.S. secretary of defense exclusively told CNN. Ash Carter says Iraqi key forces sent to protect and defend the city of Ramadi showed, in his words, quote "no will to fight." It is the toughest language yet from the Pentagon about the Iraqi military's capability and willingness to defeat ISIS. Carter says Iraqi troops were not outnumbered or outgunned, they just did not put up a fight. Let's hear much more from the defense secretary his sell, full comments to CNN in a moment.
There is some resist taps to ISIS, Iran, around Ramadi right now. Though, we are told some tribal fighters and Shiite militias are joining Iraqi troops in trying to at least slow down the terror group's march toward Baghdad. The capital is only 65 miles from Ramadi.
Also today, a shocking look at what ISIS fighters are doing in the cities that they conquer. The Reuters news agency is reporting ISIS killed 400 people, all of them innocent civilians in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. It is a city of 50,000 people that ISIS, if you remember, took over on Wednesday. That number of executed people comes from the Syrian state news agency who heard it, they say from survivors.
U.S. defense secretary Ash Carter says he is quote "very concerned ""about Iraq and he is clearly not happy with the Iraqi military, which the U.S. government has trained, equipped and left in charge of the country's security. Carter says Iraqi troops show nod will to fight when ISIS moved in this month and allowed the extremist group to take over that city so close to Baghdad.
Here is the defense secretary's exclusive interview with CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASH CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: What apparently happened was that the Iraqi force just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight. They withdrew from the site. And that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.
Now, we can give them training. We can give them equipment. We obviously can't give them the will to fight. But if we give them training, we give them equipment and give them support and give them some time, I hope they will develop the will to fight because only if they fight can ISIL remain defeated.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people in Washington that you deal with on the other side of the aisle are saying, look, put in ground troops, putting forward air colors are, airstrikes are not working. What do you foresee what is your view on this?
CARTER: Airstrikes are effective but neither they nor, really anything we do can substitute for the Iraqi forces' will to fight. They are the ones who have to beat ISIL and then keep them beaten. We can participate in the defeat of ISIL but we can't make Iraq run as a decent place for people to live. We can't sustain the victory. Only the Iraqis can do that and in particular, in this case, the Sunni tribe to the west. And if there comes a time when we need to change the kinds of support we are giving to the Iraqi forces, we will make that recommendation. But what happened if Ramadi was a failure of the Iraqi forces to fight. So our efforts now are devoted to providing their ground forces with the equipment, the training and to try to encourage their will to fight so that o campaign enabling them can be successful, both in defeating ISI: and keeping ISIL defeated in a sustained way. But these things we need to -- all of our tactics --
STARR: Make sure I understand you. You are not at forward air controllers are on the ground yet?
CARTER: We have not made that recommendation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. Talk about t with CNN senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon. She is live tonight in Baghdad. Phillip Mudd, former CIA counterterrorism official joins us as well, and CNN global affairs analyst, retired army lieutenant, James Reese.
Guys, thank you for being here.
Arwa, let me begin with you. What is the reaction amount ground there in Baghdad when they heart U.S. defense secretary say, look, the Iraqis lost this. They had the manpower, they had the weapons, they did not have the will to fight?
[17:05:00] ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, Iraqis are bristling at that comment. They will say that first and foremost, the U.S. should have perhaps trained the Iraqi military properly the first time around. They will then they say that they have in fact been fighting in Ramadi since as far back as November and did not receive additional support when requested from the Iraqi government. They will say that the U.S. failed in providing them the needed air support and we did in fact earlier today, speak to a soldier who was part of the last unit to withdraw from Ramadi. They were surrounded by ISIS on all sides. And based in the video that he provided us from that firefight, his unit ran out of ammunition and then received the orders to withdraw.
And he will tell you that the issue is not with his individual and the soldier's individual will to fight, but that the problem goes up the Iraqi chain of command. The senior military leadership corrupt, many will tell you and that there's also a massive logistical failure. And Iraqis, too, at the end of the day feel that the U.S.-led coalition can and should be doing more. For example, the s., they say has been talking about expediting weapons shipments to Iraq but those have still yet to materialize.
HARLOW: And Arwa, thank you for that stay with us as we discuss also with Phil Mudd.
I mean, Phil, you hear those words no will to fight, that is perhaps sort of one of the insulting things, you know, one could hear about their own forces. At the same time, he is clearly got a point and has been time and time again that these cities have fallen despite the number of, you know, the manpower in the Iraqi forces and the amount of arms that they have.
Do you think that the U.S. defense secretary, Carter here, could be using this as a tactical move to try to motivate the Iraqi forces?
PHILLIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Absolutely. Let's look at the conversation we have had over the past few weeks. You have multiple players in this fight. We have talked about ISIS and its gains in the ground in particular recently about Ramadi. That's only one of at least four players here.
Another player, the Iraqi civilians on the ground, a third player, the Iraqi military, the Iraqi government, a fourth player, the U.S. and other partners outside. We haven't looked it these other variables. She is absolutely right in saying if you're going to assess a counter insurgency when you have an insurgent group that is ISIS that doesn't have as many men at arm as the military does, it doesn't have the same equipment, you have to step back and say why isn't the army doing this?
The bottom line here though, Poppy, is I think he is saying this exactly as you suggest. He is saying this because he is frustrated and people in Washington are making a calculated move to say we are going to send a message to Baghdad. You better fight.
HARLOW: Colonel Reese, Barbara Starr, we heard her pressing Secretary Carter a number of times about these forward air controllers in Iraq. He said, no. That is not a recommendation that's making. Why the resistance to that? Is that the right call?
LT. COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), FORMER U.S. DELTA FORCE COMMANDER: Well, Poppy, should never be that just the mandate fix, let's throw forward air controllers out in the battlefield. Forward air controllers become part of an element that goes out with the Iraqis. I believe we have made a mistake from the get go. We have special operation forces, we even have some conventional forces out there. They train the military. The problem is, though, is once we send them out the gate, the leadership, the experience stays inside the wire. We don't even do that in our own military. We make sure that there is a leadership going out. I agree with Arwa -- go ahead.
HARLOW: I just want to ask you this, just following up in terms of the military strategy because of your background. A few days ago Jeb Bush was asked about putting U.S. combat troops in Iraq again. According to "the New York Times," after a speech in Oklahoma City, he said former military officials told him that American forces quote "should embed in the Iraqi military." He went on to say the Canadians and the French do it, but we are prohibited, that is just remarkable.
Does he have point, Colonel Reese? I mean, you were a special operations officer. You trained and embedded with forces overseas. Is it not an option for the United States to do that? And if it is, is it the right call?
REESE: It is absolute -- it is absolute course of action for military forces to do it. We have a policy that we are not going to do it. I spent three weeks with Ben Wedeman up in Tikrit. The Iranians are there. We are not there. So everyone is going back and forth. We are turning this into a big political aspect.
Again, at the end of the day a lot of young Iraqis, just like a lot of young U.S. soldiers who are out there. At the end of the day this is about leadership on the battlefield. If you don't have leaders out there leading your young soldiers who want to fight, who want to do the right thing, you're not going to do it. Now, we can help. And I know we have got Special Forces guys out there who want to do this, but the special teams this is what they do. They live for this type of work. Then you embed the forward air controller with this Special Forces team. They become a combat multiplier out there and we would switch this thing in a heartbeat.
[17:10:17] HARLOW: Arwa, to you, how likely is a complete splintering of Iraq if we see more cities fall to ISIS? I mean, you have spent more time on the ground there than almost anyone.
DAMON: Look this is something that has been debated pretty much since the fall of Saddam Hussein, can Iraq exist as the nation we know it to be today? It is difficult to tell and opinion amongst Iraqis is divided to a certain degree. Yes, they do want to see their nation stay as they do know it but many of them are beginning to accept what may or may not be a reality. We really don't know. But then it might eventually have to split.
What is happening though, Poppy, is that ISIS is drawing its lines in the sand and those lines are not lines that Iraq's Sunni population or anyone in this nation want to see drawn.
HARLOW: Arwa, Phil, Colonel Reese, thank you very much. Appreciate the insight this evening. Good to have you on. Coming up, record-breaking floods and rains wreaking havoc in the
southern plains, prompting water rescues and evacuations. We will have a live report. Just look at those images and these rescues going on right now. We will have a live report, next.
[17:14:33] HARLOW: Historic and deadly floods are sweeping people in cars off of drenched roads in Texas and Oklahoma. Hundreds of homes already destroyed. Some people unable to escape in the midst -- unable to escape in the midst of it all before those rising waters poured into their homes.
In San Marcos, Texas, dozens of people scrambled to their rooftops where rescue crews carried them to safety. One person was killed we know at this hour, at least three other people are missing. And if that's not enough, a tornado touched down during the flooding, damaging apartments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:15:04] KENNETH BELL, TEAM EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR, SAN MARCOS, TEXAS: We are still in the process of looking for missing persons. We have people that are still trapped in certain areas. It's -- they are not in dire strait but we are having difficulties getting to them due to lack of resources from air, mainly because of weather.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: There's a mandatory curfew in effect at 9:00 p.m. local time for San Marcos and Hays County, Texas, due to the downed power lines and the completely washed out roads.
Also, near Tulsa, Oklahoma, a firefighter died this morning while attempting to rescue people -- trying to rescue about ten people that were stranded in their homes. The firefighter drowned in the storm drain. We still have not received his I.D.
In Texas, the flooding damage is being called catastrophic. At least 1,000 people are now staying in shelters as a result. Emergency officials are urging people to stay inside if their homes are safe.
Let's go straight to Alina Machado, she joins us in San Marcos, Texas. And we were talking yesterday, Alina, you were hoping everyone was hoping it wasn't going to get worse and it seems like it has.
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems like it did get pretty bad in this area. We are about five hours south of where we were yesterday. That area was largely spared, even though that's where they were expecting the most significant flooding.
Here in San Marcos, look at this, there's debris everywhere, large trees behind me. If you walk over here with me, you get closer to the river, you can see where the water went through. You can see also piles of debris everywhere and the river. It's still swollen. It's still moving quickly.
This all happened very, very quickly. Just north of here in Blanco County, they got as much as 12 inches of rain in a very short period of time. All that water rushed downstream, flooding areas like San Marcos, where we are. Now, because this happened so fast, many people didn't have the time to evacuate, so they had to be rescued and that's why we heard about all of these water rescues overnight.
There are about a thousand people in shelters. There's hundreds of homes that have been damaged or destroyed. And again, authorities here are actively looking for three people who are believed to be missing.
The good news in all of this is that at this point, even though there is all this debris, it appears that flood waters are receding, Poppy.
HARLOW: That's good to know. We are hearing at least a thousand people staying in shelters. I mean, all in, how many people have been evacuated? Do you have a sense how many people are waiting to be rescued?
MACHADO: The sense that we get is that there isn't anybody stranded, at least at this point, on the rooftop. That's the latest we got from emergency officials. And there are people who are in homes that are difficult to get to. But as far as authorities understand, they seem to be OK. There are though people who lost everything. I mean, you look at the debris field and it is definitely extensive. So there's a lot of work to be done here, Poppy.
HARLOW: All right, Alina Machado, thank you for the reporting on the ground there. That has just been severe weather storm after severe storm, especially there in Texas. Thanks so much.
Coming up, 71 protesters arrested last night in Cleveland. You are looking at some of it, follows the acquittal of a white police officer who shot and killed a black couple. Hear why some officers in his own department are questioning this verdict.
[17:22:05] HARLOW: Well, the mayor of Cleveland says he is proud of the peaceful protest in his city. Those protests began in Saturday after a judge acquitted Michael Brelo, a police officer, accused of shooting and killing unarmed people back in 2012 after a high speed chase. But this peaceful demonstration turned more aggressive by late afternoon and into the evening with some of the protesters attacking innocent bystanders. In total, we are told 71 people were arrested in those protests last night.
Officers involved in that shooting have a filed a lawsuit against the city claiming they have been discriminated against. Nine officers in total claiming the African-American officers involved in the case were treated less harshly and that it is not the first time that's happened.
Sarah Ganim is digging in to it for us. She joins me now. This is interesting. There are 13 police officers involved in this
deadly shooting. And a big chunk of them have filed this lawsuit basically saying actually they are the ones who have been discriminated against, treated unfairly.
SARAH GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It is a reverse discrimination lawsuit. They are saying because the victims were African-Americans and these nine officers were not. They are saying they were put on administrative leave for a longer period of time, 16 months after the shooting they were on this restricted leave. And their lawsuit claim that typically in the department, people or officers who are involved in shootings are only on this kind of leave for about 45 days and they say this is a pattern. So I want to read you a bit from their lawsuit.
They say the city of Cleveland has quote "long standing practices and procedures which place onerous burdens on non-African-American officers because of their race and the race of the persons who are the subject of deadly force." They went on to say that their punishment was quote "substantially longer than that which has been meted out to similarly situated African-American officers."
But what's interesting here, Poppy, is that judge has order that the disciplinary records for all officers, from the Cleveland police department in a five-year period, now be handed over in this case and that they be listed, the officers listed by race. What their punishment was and what's their race is.
So I talk to a former Cleveland prosecutor about this and whether or not you can be successful in the case like this. And I want you to take a listen on what she had to say. Her name is Tanya Miller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TANYA MILLER, FORMER CLEVELAND PROSECUTOR: I don't know that you get to file a lawsuit just because you're on leave a little bit longer that other people. Was your case different in some way? Were there some extenuating circumstances that required your leave to be extended longer that other folks?
The mere fact that their leave was longer or someone else's leave was shorter doesn't necessarily mean you're going to prevail in a federal lawsuit that you've been discriminated against because you're white.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANIM: Now, you know, the department of justice has come out with a scathing report about the training and the discipline of officers in the Cleveland police department. They said this, I think it's relevant here, they said their investigation revealed several troubling practices and a problematic view what constitutes holding officers accountable.
[17:25:06] HARLOW: Are these officers saying anything about their fellow officer, Michael Brelo, who was acquitted yesterday? GANIM: Well, the lawsuit blames Brelo. It says that the state
attorney general came out and cleaved these nine officers and others when it decided to go after Brelo criminally for the shooting. What is interesting here, though, is that the judge yesterday in his acquittal said that he could not determine that it was Brelo's shots that actually -- bullets that actually killed that couple. And so, that could play a role in how the discrimination case moves forward because the judge ruled that it could have been the bullet from --
GANIM: does not clear whose bullets actually -- whose shots fired --
HARLOW: Killed them.
HARLOW: And now we know that the police department's doing their own investigation and we will see what happens to those officers involved from that end.
Sarah, thank you. Really interesting stuff.
Coming up, "The New York Times" reporting that the department of justice has found criminal wrong doing on the part of general motors after that auto giant failed to disclose deadly problems with their ignition switch. The details ahead.
[17:29:17] HARLOW: "The New York Times" is reporting that the justice department has identified criminal wrongdoing in General Motors' failure to disclose an ignition switch defect that led to at least 100 deaths. The report also says that GM is negotiating what could be a record settle with the government. The justice department would not confirm any of that to CNN and GM would not comment, other than to tell us quote "we are cooperating fully with all requests. We are unable to comment on the status of the investigation, including timing."
For months, we have been following the case of Candace Anderson, a woman from Texas, who has now been cleared of a criminally negligent homicide conviction, ten years after a crash in a GM car that killed her boyfriend. The court ruling General Motors was to blame.
Here's her story.
[17:30:07] HARLOW: Do you feel free now?
CANDICE ANDERSON, DRIVER OF RECALLED GM CAR: I do. I feel like a big weight's been lifted off me. I can walk taller.
HARLOW: After a decade of agony, Candice Anderson is finally free.
People in this town called you a murder for a decade.
ANDERSON: It's a hard thing to get past.
HARLOW: Free from living in nightmare.
ANDERSON: I feel like I was robbed from a part of my life, a ten-year -- ten years is a decade, it's a long time. I feel robbed of part of my youth, where things were supposed to be fun and making memories, you know, having a good friend to share it with.
HARLOW: It started with a fatal car crash. Candice was behind the wheel when her brand new Saturn iron slammed into a tree on this east Texas country road in 2004.
ANDERSON: This one right here.
HARLOW: This is the tree you hit?
HARLOW: Her boyfriend, Michael Erickson, was in the passenger seat. He was Candice's first love.
ANDERSON: I was through the windshield on the hood of the car and then his face was face down in my lap.
HARLOW: The father of two young girls, Michael was instantly killed. Candice still bears the scars of that day, her liver lacerated, nearly all of her ribs broken. Do you ever have moments when you think why did I survive?
ANDERSON: Yes. I felt that way the whole ten years.
HARLOW: The police report says neither Michael nor Candice was wearing a seatbelt. The air bag did not deploy. After the crash, Xanax was found in Candice's system. She was not prescribed the drug. But then she took one pill the night before.
ANDERSON: Do I think I was intoxicated that day? No. I wasn't intoxicated.
HARLOW: But she was indicted on a felony charge of intoxication manslaughter. She pleaded guilty to criminal negligent homicide and was sentenced to five years' probation and fine. She lived each day as a felon.
You could have gone to jail for 20 years.
ANDERSON: I think about that all the time. I really do.
HARLOW: But there is now proof that for a decade, General Motors knew about a deadly defect in Candice's car and millions more but kept it a secret. Faulty ignition switches causing the engine to stop suddenly while driving, disabling the air bags.
And as Candice was prosecuted, GM did nothing to help her. In fact, in 2007, the same year Candice pleaded guilty, GM did their own internal investigation of her crash, calling it unusual and noted the air bags should have deployed.
ANDERSON: I'm fighting for my justice. I want vindication. I want them to say, you know, I want people to know that it was the car and it wasn't me.
HARLOW: In this courthouse, the same one where she pleaded guilty to criminal negligent homicide, Candice Anderson finally got her justice, the judge placing the blame squarely on General Motors.
Writing in the court opinion, "while Ms. Anderson pled guilty to a crime for which she was not at fault, GM had evidence that would have demonstrated her actual innocence and identified the true culprit and cause of the accident, General Motors."
Candice's conviction overturned. She is now acquitted of any fault in the crash that killed Michael. What would Michael say?
ANDERSON: I pictured him rooting us, you know, in the courtroom and, you know, just -- you know, a good feeling to think that he's, you know, had a lot to do with it.
HARLOW: GM would not comment on the Jim's opinion, but for the first time in this letter to Candice's attorney, General Motors admits it may be to blame. Writing "GM has determined that crash involving Ms. Anderson is one in which the recall condition may have caused or contributed to the frontal air bag non-deployment in the accident.
Is it enough?
ANDERSON: No, they should have been there. That they support me to put in the word before the judge also, I really do.
HARLOW: Have you directly, Candice, heard from general motors?
ANDERSON: At this point, I don't think I ever will.
HARLOW: So, why didn't GM reach out to Candice Anderson when it investigated her crash years ago? We asked GM CEO, Mary Barra.
Why didn't gm ever reach out to her?
MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: As you look at the police report on the report documents that there were opportunities where in this specific situation, a series of mistakes were made over a long period of time and that's why we have taken some of the extraordinary steps.
[17:35:05] HARLOW: Do you think looking back, do you think someone at gm should have bash when they saw this happen and there was an internal investigation, reached out to Candice Anderson? BARRA: Again, Poppy, as you look across this, we have -- making the
right changes that we need to make with the learnings that we have had from the (INAUDIBLE) report, what we are to make sure we are the industry leaders in safety as we move forward and we have taken steps to do the right thing.
HARLOW: GM is fixing its defective cars and has apologized to victims and their families.
BARRA: I am deeply sorry.
HARLOW: When you come back to the crash site now, being vindicated, knowing this I want your fault, what do you think?
ANDERSON: The guilt is definitely lifted. But what happened is a tragedy, of course, it's still there the pain is still real.
HARLOW: And nothing will bring Michael back.
For the past ten years, Michael's mother, Rhonda, couldn't bring herself to lay a headstone for her son. Now, she finally has.
RHONDA ERICKSON, SON KILLED IN 2004 SATURN ION CONDITION: It was like the story of David and Goliath, where we took a little sling shot and we threw a rock at a giant and we won. That's how I felt. That it was all worth it we weren't scared and we stood up and we got what we wanted.
HARLOW: Their fight may be over but the department of justice investigation into General Motors continues.
ANDERSON: There's someone within General Motors that should be held responsible.
HARLOW: Are you saying that you think individuals at jeep motors should stand trial?
ANDERSON: Yes. I do. They didn't have a problem sitting by while I was charged and convicted.
HARLOW: Michael's mother, Rhonda Erickson, called the reported finding of criminal wrongdoing by GM sad, telling me quote "it makes me very sad that a company already extremely wealthy would be so callous and evil to knowingly allow a faulty, dangerous product to stay on the market and watch it being purchased by innocent, trusting customers."
I should note, Candice and Rhonda will accept money, a settlement from GM's victim compensation fund. By doing that, though, they give up their right to sue General Motors in the future and they said coming to that decision was incredibly difficult.
We will be right back.
[17:41:22] HARLOW: Historic floods devastating part of Texas and Oklahoma. At least two people we know are dead. Three others are missing at this hour because of record-breaking torrential rains that are turning small-town streets into fast-moving rivers.
Take a look at what's happening right now in San Marcos, Texas. A thousand homes are damaged. At least 300 have been completely, completely destroyed. A mandatory curfew is in effect there due to all those downed power lines and washed out roads.
Meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now from the CNN severe weather center. It is so bad there and we know there are these mandatory evacuations that are going on near Lewis Creek reservoir in Texas, right?
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I can get into that area and show you that as well. But in some cases, their voluntary evacuations, some people have to pull. I mean, we had a number of emergency water rescues, too.
Here is the latest. In green are flood watches, bright green are river flood warnings and now we got a number of tornado watch boxes. It seems like we have been talking about this since the beginning of the month. And with the threat of tornadoes each weekend came the heavy rains. But now at St. Louis down toward Memphis and northern areas and Mississippi. So, as we put this into motion here, you can see all the heavy rainfall.
Here is our San Marcos problem, this Blanco River, San Marcos River, in between Austin and San Antonio. The water levels, this is crazy, because the last 24 hours, we picked up anywhere between nine to 11 1/2 inches of rain. Amazing.
This is the River crest chart. It was an eight feet just last night, expected, Poppy, to get up to near 38-feet later on this evening. That is incredible to go from eight to 38. And that's just one area of concern after these amounts of rainfall.
So again, we are going to watch more water rescues, unfortunately, in Oklahoma City, Rogers County, we lost a firefighter trying to perform high water rescue. So our thoughts, obviously, to him and his family and the department.
HARLOW: And you just seems like Texas, Oklahoma, the past few weeks cannot get a break.
Tom, thanks for keeping an eye on it for us. I appreciate it.
Well, switching gears here, remembering those who served this country, for a group of journalists and an army serviceman, what happened on a Baghdad street in 2006 changed their lives forever. Coming up next, the widow of army captain Alex funk Houser shares his story and how she is keeping his memory alive.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Fit Nation team is halfway to their goal of competing in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon this September. Last week, they got together in Southern California to swim, bike, run and have a little fun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never been someone I thought that would inspire people to go work out, of all things, but you know, that's been interesting. Like, oh, yes, you know, we saw this, we saw that on facebook, we saw it in CNN. So yes, I got my -- I got off the couch and went to go do this. So I went and ran three miles because I saw that you went and did this. That's been a good byproduct of what I have been trying to do.
GUPTA: They have made great progress over the first four months, losing weight, getting in shape, mentally and physically, and all six are ready to take on their race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be able to have that process put in front of you and the guidance and the help and family atmosphere, it has been amazing.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
[17:48:52] HARLOW: It has been nine years, but the physical and emotional pain is still so raw. It was Memorial Day 2006, the place, Baghdad, Iraq. CBS reporter Kimberly Dozier and her crew, along with a member -- and members of the U.S. army patrol were out filming a story, but what started out as so many other days had begun in the war-torn city turned into an absolute nightmare.
Car bomb exploded right alongside their caravan killing CBS camera man Paul Douglas, CBS Sam (INAUDIBLE), James Brolin and the U.S. army officer, her team was filming with, Captain James Alex Funkhouser. He is Iraqi translator know as Sam, was also killed in the blast.
Kimberly Dozier herself came very close to losing her life. Army doctors call it a miracle that she survived and when she was finally able to walk again, Kimberly and Jennifer, Alex's widow got to meet.
Kim Dozier and Jennifer Funkhouser join me now from Washington. Thank you for being here, guys. I appreciate, it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good to be here. HARLOW: It is a remarkable story. It is one that I certainly
followed very, very closely, Kimberly, as you were recovering. And Jennifer, all of our thoughts are with you. I'm so sorry for your lost.
[17:50:06] JENNIFER FUNKHOUSER, GOLD STAR WIFE: Thank you.
HARLOW: And for yours, Kimberly, so many innocent lived lost. What's amazing is how the two of you have come together in all of this. Can you tell me a little bit about that, Jennifer?
FUNKHOUSER: Well, I was -- I was called almost a year after the attack and asked if we wanted to meet up and I really wanted to. I really wanted the answers that I was searching for. And I wanted to be with the person who was with my husband in his final moments.
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, it was a chance for Jennifer basically to ask me to walk through every detail of that day, but also she wanted to know, you know, what was he talking about beforehand? And he was talking about how he wished he -- he loved the mission he was on but he wished he was with Jennifer and his daughters that day and he said they were out having a picnic, he knew, and there he was on the job doing something he thought was really important.
HARLOW: It's a struggle, this pull, that so many of our men and women in the service feel. They want to be with their family at the same time they want to serve and protect their country. You have two beautiful daughters, Jennifer, who are there in the greenroom with you, Kaitlyn and Allison, 11 years old and 13 years old. And I know your older daughter remembers Sam, remembers her father. Your youngest does not. So how do you keep his memory alive?
FUNKHOUSER: We basically have pictures up everywhere. We talk about him every single day as if he was still there. I don't have it to where my house has been turned into any kind of memorial for him.
FUNKHOUSER: But I make sure that he is definitely a part of our family every day.
HARLOW: And Kim, you wrote extensively about this in your book, and you talk about the healing process, the physical healing process. You went through dozens and dozens of surgeries, but also the mental healing process. How did Jennifer help with that?
DOZIER: Well, the hardest thing when I came to was realizing that Paul and James, my team that day, had been killed, and that Captain Funkhouser had been killed. And trying to pay it forward and make up for that, I can never make up for their loss in the fact that I'm still here.
So when Jennifer reached out, it was this moment of compassion and having, including me in her life, I can watch her girls grow end on facebook, has been this amazing act of Grace and she's just done it again. For this weekend she was invited back by the U.S. army to be here in D.C., and she arranged for the children of the camera crew to be brought here as well. So, Agatha Brolin and Joe Douglas are out at the memorial concert waiting for us to join them.
HARLOW: And I know you all got together last night, Jennifer, right?
FUNKHOUSER: We did. It was -- it was an instant bond, an instant connection, and I really truly feel like all of us are bonded together for life.
HARLOW: I want you, Kim, to take a listen --
HARLOW: No, I wanted to play you some of this sound from an army doctor in the field who treated you after this bomb went off. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. BOB MAZUR, U.S. MILITARY HOSPITAL, BAGHDAD: At one point she -- her pulse stopped. She didn't have a heartbeat. She was as sick as you get. Brink of death, basically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you guys brought her back?
MAZUR: Mostly the team that worked on this bed from the doctor, the nurses, the medics, there were quite a few folks doing it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How lucky is she?
MAZUR: I think she's really unlucky, actually. She -- well, she did hurt real bad. The fact that she's alive, of course, is great. It's a miracle pretty much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: A miracle. Kimberly, what goes through your mind when you hear that?
DOZIER: How close I was to joining Paul and James, and Alex and Sam, the Iraqi translator we lost that day, but also, you know, I'm still here, so I got to make it count. And I know that there are a lot of men and women in uniform across the country who also lost someone, and, you know, they're fighting to make the fact that they're still here count.
And so when people think about Memorial Day, that's why Jennifer came to Washington. We really want people to think about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice who aren't coming home.
HARLOW: Yes. What do you want, Jennifer, people to know and to remember about your husband?
FUNKHOUSER: You know, he -- he was an average American man. He loved his family. He loved the outdoors. He loved to grill some meat and he loved to drink at the end of a hard day. But he was also very passionate about his job. And as crazy as he could be in his personal life, all of that was left at the door as he walked into his army life, and I believe that he was a great soldier and a great leader. I'm proud of him.
[17:55:26] HARLOW: We are all proud of him. And we are thankful to him and all of the others.
You've said, Jennifer, that he did not die in vain. That he didn't always agree with every mission or what he was supposed to do, but he believed in serving his country and the reason that they were there. For all the people looking at Iraq right now, and the situation in Iraq, what would you like to say?
FUNKHOUSER: I -- I would have hoped that there would have been more progress right now over there, but hopefully there can be some kind of resolution. That's --
DOZIER: And it just comes back to one thing that everyone in uniform can agree on. They're there for the brother or sister next to them and for their families back home.
HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely. Let's remember them all. Memorial day, people have off work and they be barbecuing but let's remember what it's really about the people that sacrificed everything.
Kim Dozier, Jennifer Funkhouser, thank you so much.
DOZIER: Thank you.
FUNKHOUSER: Thank you.
HARLOW: All right. We'll be right back.