Courtesy Diane Petty
Jerrick Petty holds his son McKen.
Six hundred American service men and women have died in the war in Iraq, many of them from the nation's smallest counties and towns. An ongoing study by sociologist Robert Cushing for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper examines the list of these victims and reveals an apparent statistical anomaly: soldiers and Marines from rural areas are dying at twice the rate of troops from cities and suburbs.
Members of Congress are studying the trend and have asked for more research from the General Accounting Office.
Pfc. Jerrick Petty, who was killed in Mosul, Iraq, two days after his arrival in the country, is one such soldier. Jerrick grew up in Hawthorne, Nev., a "one-stoplight town" in rural America. Like many other men and women from small communities suffering in the current economy, Petty joined the military to hold a steady income and to serve his country.
NPR's Howard Berkes discusses the research with Cushing and speaks to Petty's parents, Diane and Gerald Petty.