By Lester Holt, NBC News anchor
Brian is off today, enjoying the holiday, so I'll be holding down the fort tonight.
On the program this evening, we will cover the death of a remarkable and controversial figure in American politics. Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms died early this morning. As a staunch conservative, he was often at the forefront of hot button social debates, including civil rights, gay rights and public funding for the arts. Helms was often a hero to the right, and reviled by the left, so it is not surprising that there is plenty of reaction to his passing. You will hear some of it on Nightly News this evening.
In politics, as Senator John McCain takes a holiday break from the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama continues his swing out West. Lee Cowan will examine Obama's stragegy, as the campaign looks to turn some of those so-called western red states, Democratic blue in the fall.
There are fireworks over the use of fireworks in tinder-dry California this holiday. Meantime, with so much of the state on fire, Governor Schwarzenegger has ordered the call up of more National Guard troops to join the fire lines. Our George Lewis is in the Santa Barbara area, and will bring us the latest tonight.
Jim Maceda is back in Iraq where he caught up with members of Alpha Company 464, a unit of the Army's third Infantry Division which led the invasion of Iraq, five years ago. Alpha company is spending its third July 4th in Iraq since 2003. Jim first met them on a previous tour of duty, and will share with us their reflections on the ups and downs they've experienced in the war zone.
I'm glad you clicked on us today, and hope you'll catch us later. In the meantime, I wish you and your family a safe holiday weekend.