La. town that lost 6 guardsmen in Iraq looks back

Tiffany Comeaux with her husband Sgt. Kurt Comeaux of the Louisiana National Guard and three children. Sgt. Comeaux was killed in Iraq in 2005
CBS

As the last U.S. troops return from Iraq, we also remember the 4,487 Americans who will not come home. Those deaths have touched every state in this country, and many small towns. Michelle Miller visited one of them.

In Houma, Louisiana on Jan. 6, 2005, military officers visited six families.

The knock on Tiffany Comeaux's door came just after 11 p.m.

"They didn't have to tell me, I knew exactly what it was," Comeaux said. "I think I dropped to the floor. We got the boys out of bed and went to my mom's house next door."

Her husband, Sgt. Kurt Comeaux of the Louisiana National Guard was riding in a Humvee outside of Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded. It killed him and five other guardsmen from Houma.

They left for Iraq in October 2004. Months later, Tiffiny Comeaux had become a 33-year-old widow with three young sons.

She never considered that she might never see him again.

"I guess, I don't know if I was naive. He was in the guard," she said. "He wanted to go to college."

The tragedy touched almost everyone in this town of 32,000. Retired Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer was the first person to find out what happened.

"It galvanized the community," he said. "They came together in a way, in a way I haven't seen in a long time because they all could relate to it."

The Pentagon planned to return the guardsmen remains separately. But people in Houma insisted the six come home together. It was the first time cameras captured flag-draped coffins returning home from Iraq. People lined the route -- dozens of miles -- from the airport.

"How many funerals, how many eulogies did you deliver?" Miller asked Downer.

"One too many. If you deliver one, it's one too many."

The community set up a $30,000 trust fund for Comeaux's three boys. And as a memorial to the soldiers, fellow guardsmen Christopher Babin's funeral wreath now hangs in Houma's new military memorial museum.

Without the community, Comeaux says she doesn't know where she would be. "That's a big part of being able to move on," she said.

Comeaux is now married to another guardsmen and added a fourth son to the family. But she says she often thinks soldiers who suffered and survived.

"It's all the families that have husbands at home that can't do anything from the war. They're injured. You can tell that gets to me," she said.

America's war in Iraq lasted 3,192 days. The healing in Houma will take much longer.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is the co-host of "CBS This Morning: Saturday." As an award-winning correspondent based in New York, she has reported for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. She joined CBS News in 2004.