CBS's David Martin filed a report on today's Early Show on the sacrifice paid in Iraq by small towns across the country as 25 percent of the Iraq war dead are from rural areas compared to 20 percent of the military as a whole hailing from rural America. Martin focused on the July death of Sergeant Victor Anderson in his story. Anderson was a reservist from Ellaville, Georgia, a town with a population of 2,000, which Martin noted in the closing of his report, the same number of US deaths in Iraq.
Martin's piece put a face on the 2,000 benchmark and used the number to illustrate the loss of life in the Iraq war already as equal to that of a small tight-knit, patriotic Southern town. But in August, the Atlanta Journal Constitution gave its readers a fuller look at Anderson as a person, a Reservist who worked hard to lose weight and pass physical muster to be shipped out to Iraq rather than work a desk stateside:
Anderson looked like a soldier with his shaved head, ramrod posture and short, stocky build. He grew up in Ellaville, a small town north of Americus, and enlisted in the Army after high school. He left active service and joined the Guard, taking a job as a police officer in Ellaville.
He re-enlisted in the Army after the Gulf War, meeting his wife of 11 years when he was posted in Germany. He left the Army again, rejoined the Guard and settled into a life of family and police work.
Anderson had been overseas with the Guard, as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, and he badly wanted to go to Iraq. But it almost didn’t happen.
In January, when the brigade was mobilized, he was told that he couldn’t join the other soldiers because of his diabetes. When hundreds of people turned out to see the unit off in a motorcade through the middle of Americus, Anderson had to settle for leading the way in a police cruiser.
“He had tears streaming down his face,” said Maj. Jimmy Jordan of the Sheriff’s Department, a retired guardsman who befriended Anderson. “It really hurt him not to be with his men.”
Anderson exercised, dieted, lost weight. Not long before the brigade deployed in May, he was cleared to go.
“He was as happy as a boy on Christmas morning,” said Jordan, who recalled his last encounter with Anderson. They hugged in the halls of the Sheriff’s Department, and he told the younger man to be careful.
A Nexis search for previous mentions of Anderson among CBS News revealed no hits from earlier than today's story.