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Study: Rural communities suffer large rate of soldier deaths

A new study finds that a disproportionate number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war came from small towns in the Great Plains and the upper Midwest.

UW-Madison rural sociologist Katherine Curtis crunched the numbers for Iraq War deaths between 2003 and 2007 and found that soldiers from rural areas were much more likely to be killed than their urban comrades. Curtis says the numbers don't explain why that's the case, but she says the implications for small rural communities are important.

"The loss of one person from a community of 1,000 has a much greater impact on that community relative to a community of 20,000," explains Curtis.

"That's not to minimize the tragedy of any loss of any soldier but in terms of the community impact that's when these differences and the disproportionate brunt becomes very large"

Curtis says she hopes her research will motivate both community leaders and researchers to take action. She says the work could help communities better prepare for the "disproportionate brunt they face in times of war."

Curtis says the logical questions for future studies would be to ask whether rural troops get different training, or whether there's something about their rural background that makes them more likely to be a casualty.