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October 28th, 2008
06:15 PM ET

Rockin' out for our vets

Program Note: 3 out of 4 young people know someone who is currently serving or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anderson helps MTV shine a light on issues facing young veterans... Check out MTV.com for how to get involved.
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Leslie Sanchez | Bio
CNN Political Contributor
Republican Strategist

Everyone says, nowadays, that they support the troops. It's a phrase that trips off the tongue with ease whether spoken by anti-war protesters or battle-hardened veterans of previous conflicts. In one sense, its part of the cure for 25-year long hangover America experienced after Vietnam, having overdone it on the Kool-Aid poured out by Massachusetts' John F. Kerry and other anti-war activists. Saying it makes you feel better.

But what does it really mean "to support the troops." Well, for recording artists Ludacris, 50 Cent, Hinder, O.A.R. and Saving Abel, it means sharing your talents to raise awareness so that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan can have access to physical and mental health screening, medical care, job counseling and training, education and, for those that want it, a fresh start in a new life outside the embrace of the U.S. military.

At MTV's "A Night for Vets: An MTV Concert for the BRAVE," those artists performed live along with taped performances by some of the entertainment industry's most recognizable stars, including Kanye West, Kid Rock, Angels + Airwaves, Fall Out Boy, Juanes, Nelly, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Will Ferrell, Cameron Diaz, Common, Fat Joe, Seth Green, Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, James Marsden and Wyclef Jean.

Over 950 veterans and their families attended, and they no doubt could feel the love. Austin Winkler, the vocalist for the band "Hinder" explained he was there because his dad was a Marine and that it was "definitely important to take care of our veterans." FULL POST

October 24th, 2008
10:35 PM ET

Join us: CNN & MTV honor the vets

Program Note: 3 out of 4 young people know someone who is currently serving or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anderson helps MTV shine a light on issues facing young veterans... Check out MTV.com for how to get involved.
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Anderson with MTV's Sway at the taping of MTV's special 'A Night for Vets'
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Anderson Cooper

Last night just before the broadcast, I was at the Nokia theater in Times Square for a really cool night in support of our troops. CNN and MTV teamed up for a tribute to veterans home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the brave men and women who are still serving. The place was packed with vets and their loved ones, and it was such an honor to meet them and be a part of the event. (Here's a sneak peak)

My buddy Robin Meade from Headline News was also involved, and she did a great job, she even got a vet to propose to his girlfriend. I’m not sure how she managed that, but the girlfriend said “yes,” in case you are wondering. There were a lot of live musical performances – 50 Cent, Ludacris, and other big names appeared on tape, like Kanye West and Linkin Park. But it really was a night dedicated to veterans, highlighting the lives they live now, and the challenges they’ll face in the future.

The special airs tonight on MTV at 8pm, and then both tomorrow night and Sunday night at 8pm we are airing a 360° special on CNN called 'Back From The Battle.' I hope you'll watch. I think you will really be moved by some of these vets stories, by their courage, and by their determination.


Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Back from the Battle • T1
October 24th, 2008
07:12 PM ET

Lay it on the line for our veterans

Program Note: 3 out of 4 young people know someone who is currently serving or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anderson helps MTV shine a light on issues facing young veterans... Check out MTV.com for how to get involved.
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Learn how you can help those who served us at CNN.COM/IMPACT

Sign The Bill Of Rights For American Veterans

THE ISSUE

Of the more than 1.7 million veterans of combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan, most are between 20-29 years old, according to the United States Department of Defense. Veterans who return from service face a number of challenges when attempting to resume their daily lives and reintegrate back into society. These may range from mental health issues, physical injuries, difficulty finding out what benefits they are entitled to, long waits to receive benefits they’ve earned, as well as many of the issues facing all young Americans like employment, debt, and education.

Additionally, when many of us think of “veterans” we think of older people from wars past that we saw in parades growing up, but the reality is there are hundreds of thousands of veterans in their 20’s. We need to put a new face on veterans and help elevate the issues our peers are facing after having returned from the war.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
FULL POST


Filed under: Back from the Battle
October 24th, 2008
05:47 PM ET

CNN and MTV honoring veterans

Program Note: 3 out of 4 young people know someone who is currently serving or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anderson helps MTV shine a light on issues facing young veterans... Check out MTV.com for how to get involved.
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AC360° Producers Chuck Hadad and Kay Jones enjoy the show.

AC360° Producers Chuck Hadad and Kay Jones enjoy the show.

Kay Jones
AC360° Coordinating Editorial Producer

Four years ago, I had the privilege to produce CNN’s coverage of a party that Ft. Hood threw for the soldiers returning from Iraq. It was an all day affair on the grounds of Ft. Hood, starting with a ceremony for those who had just arrived home from Iraq and moving on to musical acts such as Ludacris, Jessica Simpson and my all time favorite Lynryd Skynyrd performing on a makeshift stage in the middle of the base.

I will never forget how much fun these soldiers and their families were having, just knowing that they were home and being celebrated. So when I was asked to help out with CNN’s portion of MTV’s Concert for the BRAVE, I jumped at the chance.

We started our night with Anderson doing a live shot for the Situation Room in the middle of Times Square. Just a few steps away, the line of the military vets waiting to get into the Nokia Theatre went all the way up 7th Avenue. When they realized who was standing that close, many pulled out their cell phones and cameras to get a shot. Now, normally I wouldn’t blog about such fandom, but the smiles on the faces of those who got pictures of Anderson were priceless.

Transitioning inside, the excitement for the show was building. Right before the “official” show began, MTV news correspondent Sway introduced an aspiring rapper named Lorenzo Zarate, who also happens to be a veteran of the war in Iraq. The crowd loved what he did and I have a feeling it was all the more special for him, performing in front of those who he can relate to.

The entire night was fantastic. Not only were the performances great, but the stories told by the MTV correspondents and our own Anderson Cooper, Michael Ware and Dr. Sanjay Gupta really highlighted the issues that are facing these new veterans upon their return home from Iraq or Afghanistan, or in some cases, both countries.

Be sure to tune in to MTV tonight to see the concert, and Saturday and Sunday at 8pm on CNN to see a special edition of AC360°. I promise you, it is well worth your time. The stories you’ll see will touch you, and remind you about the ongoing problems these men and women of the US military dealing with after the battle.


Filed under: Back from the Battle • Behind The Scenes • Kay Jones • Veterans
October 24th, 2008
01:20 PM ET

A vet's struggle with PTSD

Program Note: 3 out of 4 young people know someone who is currently serving or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anderson helps MTV shine a light on issues facing young veterans... Check out MTV.com for how to get involved.
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Iraq vet Kris Goldsmith nearly died from post-traumatic stress disorder. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.


Filed under: Back from the Battle
October 24th, 2008
08:15 AM ET

"Thank you for your service"

Program Note: 3 out of 4 young people know someone who is currently serving or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anderson helps MTV shine a light on issues facing young veterans... Check out MTV.com for how to get involved.
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SSG. Matt Keil at his new home.

SSG. Matt Keil at his new home.

Diana Miller
AC360° Producer

Matt Keil is a 26-year-old veteran of the War in Iraq. While on his second tour of duty in Iraq, he was shot by a sniper, and paralyzed from the neck down.

I went to Parker, Colorado to meet Matt and his wife Tracy, and produce a story about their move into a brand new, fully-accessible, free home from the non-profit organization, Homes for Our Troops. I had no idea what to expect. Matt is only a year out of the hospital and has many special needs. Moreover, cameras can be intrusive, and I didn’t know what his tolerance would be for long interviews. Yet, when I met Matt, I felt ashamed for questioning his endurance or spirit. He is optimistic, has a fantastically dry sense of humor, and has confidently accepted his paralysis- or what he calls his “new normal.” Matt does not want people to feel sorry for him and he’s proud of the fact that he was injured fighting for his country. His only regret is that he wasn’t able to finish the mission.

John Gonsalves’ mission is to “volunteer for America’s greatest volunteers.” He is the president and founder of Homes for Our Troops, and has dedicated his life to building homes for disabled veterans. My crew and I stopped by Matt and Tracy’s new house the day before the dedication to see the organization’s work in action. It was something of a sprint to the finish. Though the home was complete, finishing touches were still being finalized. Outside, I met Erik Freeman who was finishing landscaping. He is a full-time volunteer for Homes for Our Troops and oversaw the entire Keil project. He’s what the group calls a “road warrior” and his RV has been parked in the Keil’s yard since April when they broke ground. Erik lost his wife earlier this year, and has made building homes for disabled veterans his soul’s mission. He has literally lived through every beam, floorboard, nail, and flagpole that went into the Keil’s home, and made sure it was all done right.

FULL POST


Filed under: Back from the Battle • Diana Miller