Twenty-five pieces of luggage, a set of CBS News Home Front car magnets and a large blue sombrero — that's what we checked from San Antonio, Texas, to Albuquerque, N.M. We couldn't see our porter as he pushed the luggage cart toward the ticket counter.
Due to the whole time/space limitation thing, we are now flying the last few legs of our trip. We spent Tuesday at Sandia High School. The school was getting ready for its Homecoming Game. The gym was decorated, corsages were being sold and last-minute dance dates were being brokered in the cafeteria. It was all pretty normal for everyone. Well, everyone except Michael Scarlett. He's the star wide receiver on the Matador Football Team and his dad is about to deploy to Iraq.
Scarlett is one of only two kids at his high school with a parent in Iraq. So he's carrying the burden of his father's choice in a way a lot of people can't understand. It was wonderful talking to him. He's a great kid — smart, athletic and thoughtful (the school was about to call an Amber Alert because I threatened to kidnap him and take him home). As he spoke to us, his mother watched from nearby proudly.
It's that mother-son bond that we're looking at today in Phoenix. Lauren Eiler lost her son Michael Downey in November of last year. He was shot in the back by a sniper in Iraq. She told us her son was smart and witty with a great sense of humor. There was so much else she couldn't find the words to explain. He was a Marine but he was still her "baby."
As the number of servicemen killed in Iraq nears 2,000, Eiler wants to be sure people don't forget the faces behind the numbers.
"They're not just soldiers," her friend Jane Dolan told us, "they're people," and they are sons. Dolan is running a marathon in Michael's memory on his birthday. He would have been 22 years old.