Close-Knit Town Copes With War

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In a typical small town with the unlikely name of Paris, Ill., the toll of a faraway war strikes painfully close to home.

Bagpipes set the tone of war's impact on its citizens.

Five members of the 1544th Transportation Company, a National Guard unit based here, have been killed in Iraq since March, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports. That's half the total number for the entire Illinois Guard — all from one small town troop.

There was no way to predict that when 170 soldiers shipped out in February. On that winter day, Sergeant Shawna Morrison was asked if she was looking forward to coming home.

"Come home? Oh, yeah. I don't know who wouldn't want to come home!" Morrison said.

Morrison died in a mortar attack on Sept. 5. So did specialist Charles Lamb. Fifteen others were wounded.

For the soldiers who are home getting medical treatment, a place like Paris makes coping a little bit easier.

Bowers spoke with Sgt. Tracy Warner about her tight-knit community. "You can't go anywhere without someone recognizing you and getting a hug, because if their soldier's not here, you're the closest thing to their soldier," Warner said.

Steve Wirth's soldier is his 20-year-old daughter Stacy. He helps himself by helping out — he spearheaded a drive to post the soldiers' names on just about every streetlight downtown.

"It gives you a daily reminder when you look up there that hey, no matter how bad this day is, my worst day will never equal their best day over there," Steve Wirth said.

This small town unit's heroic motto asks only, "How much? How far?" But increasingly families and friends here in Paris are asking, "How much is too much?"

"This isn't a combat unit," said Paris Mayor Craig Smith. "These kids are driving trucks. They have suffered enough an enough's enough."

"It's time to come home now."

CBS's Bowers asked Sgt. Warner to talk about some of the difficulties of being stationed overseas in combat.

"It's hard not knowing how's not going to return," Warner said. "Because when you leave there you see everyone's face, not knowing if that's going to be your last goodbye to them.

That uncertainty only adds to the anguish, in a tight-knit town already bearing a heavy burden.