American Morning

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December 25th, 2009
09:00 AM ET

Big Stars, Big Giving: Richard Branson treats charity like a business

Editor's Note: In an American Morning original series, “Big Stars, Big Giving,” Alina Cho looks at celebrity philanthropy and how these big stars can make a big impact. Through one-on-one interviews with Elton John, Ben Stiller, Madonna, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson, she shares what causes have become their passion, and how you can get involved.

In part five of the American Morning original series, "Big Stars, Big Giving," Alina Cho interviews Sir Richard Branson about his nonprofit foundation Virgin Unite.

To learn more about the organizations these stars have created to make a difference,

and how you can get involved, visit Impact Your World.

December 25th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

A Soldier's Story: Army recruit blogs on Christmas leave

Editor's Note: We're tracking three recruits from their final days as civilians through to deployment. It's an unprecedented look inside the life of a soldier. This is a blog written exclusively for CNN by Army recruit Will McLain as part of the American Morning original series, "A Soldier's Story."

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Army recruit Will McLain is home on Christmas leave from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri."]

By Will McLain

I've been through a month of boot camp so far and it's been a huge change. You rapidly learn the protocol and it becomes a way of life.

It's kind of sad at first because you start missing everyone and the fun times you had, but you just have to remember the reason for leaving. For me, it's to make a good life for me and to be able to retire young, hopefully with a family.

Through boot, naturally there is a lot of screaming and push-ups, but you know it's what's going to keep you alive later. Also, with all the courses you do, it helps develop a strong sense of confidence in your abilities and an even stronger sense of trust in your partners and teammates.

I'm also lucky enough to be part of the cycle to get Christmas leave. It's two weeks long, which is short to me, but it's great to be able to see all the friends and family that I missed. I even got to see one of the biggest people in my life who was visiting from Texas – my best friend Kayla.

The other plus is it gives you time to relax and recuperate a little. I run and still do some PT in the morning so I don't go back out of shape and suffer again. That's not really a worry to me, just something I don't want to risk.

I'd say my one worry I do have is I don't want to end up coming home next time I'm on leave to see all the old friends gone. But out of the things I enjoy the most, it's for sure being home for Christmas and then being able to spend New Years with friends.

Filed under: A Soldier's Story • Military