On The Road To Los Angeles —
Last night, for the first time in two weeks, we did something very unusual. We stayed at a nice hotel. I know a lot of people including my friends think working in television is glamorous, that we stay in nice hotels, have hair and make-up people follow us around, and jet across the country first class. They are wrong.
Normally we stay at crap hotels. I do my make up and hair in the rear view mirror of the rental van and, as I write this, I'm sitting in the middle seat of a Southwest Airlines flight juggling peanuts, a computer on my lap and knocking elbows with the guy next to me. And you know what? I wouldn't change it for the world (although the aisle seat would be nice).
The reason I wouldn't change a thing is because every day I get to meet amazing people. People you might not get to meet otherwise. We spent this morning with Lauren Eiler — who lost her handsome son Michael Downey in the war. He was shot by a sniper in Iraq. She told me how her life has been flipped upside down. It was heartbreaking. She was putting on a brave face but I felt like I wanted to do something for her. I didn't know what I could do (I nearly offered to help clean her house or wash car). You just want to something — something to make it easier on her. Something to say sorry or thanks or both. Instead we hugged. I hope she got it.
I also met Jane Dolan. She's running the Marine Corps Marathon in memory of Michael. She never met him but thought she'd run in his honor. For our interview, my producers thought it would be a good idea if I went for a run with her. Did I mention that they followed us in a golf cart? We ran along the foothills of Phoenix. I was struck by her enthusiasm and compassion for a family and soldier she never met. I was also impressed as hell with her stride. I thought I might pass out. When I last saw Jane she was running towards the Mountain. I was running for the golf cart! She's raising money for soldiers' families with a group called Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
Today, we're headed to East Los Angeles to visit Lincoln High School. The school has a long tradition of sending it's mostly-Hispanic students into the service. We met up with a boy named Jorge Alarcon, the student leader of his ROTC unit. He's a great kid and is getting a lot out of his experience. For him, it's the best — and probably only — way to get to college and go to medical school. One day he wants to be a dentist.
On tonight's CBS Evening News we'll tell you his story and look at how these kids feel about being recruited and the issue of what role the military plays in their lives when trying to get to college.