A Mother Drives Her Son's Memory Home

One military mother is going to extraordinary lengths to pay tribute to her fallen son. Jerry Bowen reports on her journey in the fourth part of the CBS Evening News special series, "The Iraq War: Three Years and Counting."

It's family day at the U.S. Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego and all eyes should be on the graduating class. But, there is a tricked out Hummer that is drawing all the onlookers.

Karla Comfort, the SUVs driver, is posing for pictures.

"You know it's not me they're drawn to," she says. "It's the vehicle. It's the power of what happened."

What happened is that 10 members of Fox Company, 2nd battalion, 7th Marines died in Falluja last December. They were killed by an improvised explosive device – a roadside bomb. John Comfort died there, and that is where Karla Comfort's odyssey began.

"If you don't agree with the war, you still need to respect and honor the men that are doing their jobs," Comfort says, "and that's what these guys were doing."

The journey began in Arkansas where the Hummer was painted with a life-to-death montage (video). It went all the way to her home in Oregon. She stopped along the way at Camp Pendelton where her son trained.

The Marines on the base appreciated her dedication. "It's very impressive. It's a great tribute and I'm glad this woman did this," said Lt. Amanda Freeman.

For some it is a reminder of the costs of war. "It's just a reality check," said Staff Sergeant Thaddeus Williams. "It's the stuff a lot of people don't see. The realities; the costs.

True to life pictures of tanks and helicopters are on the passenger doors of Comfort's tribute vehicle. Portraits of the ten Marines killed in Falluja are on the rear windows – so are coffins in the hold of a cargo plane.

"This is just a phenomenal piece of work," Marine Chief of Staff Robert Knapp told Comfort when he saw the Hummer.

She thanked the officer, but said, "It doesn't replace my son. It sure is something positive to focus on. We miss him everyday."

For the new Marines in San Diego and their families, it is hard to look past the names painted on the rear window – they are listed as K.I.A. That is what caught Gloria Ayala's eye.

"It's sad to see all those young lives taken away for out country," she said, standing next to her 20-year-old son. "They look like babies."

Comfort doesn't disagree. "I look at these guys and I would hate to see them end up where my son did," she said. "They're so young and they don't have that vulnerable feeling yet. They have so much strength."

But she thinks the new recruits have to be that way. "It's good they have that because they probably wouldn't have a Marine Corps if they had a lot of older people enlisting. They understand that life if very sensitive and you can lose it in a second."

Comfort says her favorite part of the Hummer is a small mural of Marines guarding the gates of heaven. She believes her son is one of them.

As for herself, Comfort is driven to see that none of them are forgotten.