Athens, Ohio. Population 21,342.
Beaver Dam, Wis. 14,983.
Peru, Maine. 1,515.
Quartz Hill, Calif. 9,626.
Senoia, Ga. 3,720.
Tell City, Ind. 7,473.
Six small towns, stretched from one side of the country to the other, shared a common agony this week — the death of a young hometown hero.
At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, 24-year-old Pvt. Buddy W. McLain came home in a flag-draped coffin from a war 6,000 miles from where he was known and loved.
In nearby Rumford, a black band of mourning was stretched across a patriotic shield bearing McLain's name in a public ceremony.
Soon, McLain will be buried in a cemetery near his home.
Five other American communities were no doubt honoring their young men in their own ways.
It has been observed before that the burdens of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been disproportionately borne by rural Americans.
The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2000 that two-thirds of Americans live in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and 84 percent live within metropolitan areas with more than 50,000 people.
Yet, an Associated Press study in 2007 found that nearly half of the U.S. military fatalities came from hometowns of fewer than 25,000 people. One in five came from towns with fewer than 5,000 residents.
Of the six soldiers killed with Buddy McLain last week, only one came from a small town within a larger urban area.
The AP analysis also found that three-quarters of those killed came from towns where the per-capita income was below the national average.
Clearly, diminished employment opportunities account for part of the reason rural residents enlist in the military.
But military tradition and patriotism may also run deeper in small-town America.
Since 2001, 51 Mainers have given their lives in either Afghanistan or Iraq. They have come from northern and southern Maine, from Down East and Central Maine. Seven have come from the Sun Journal readership area, Western Maine. Many were on their second or third tours of duty.
McLain's death has raised questions about the direction of the mission in Afghanistan.
He and the other five soldiers were killed when an Afghan police trainee fired upon them from behind.
Chelsea, McLain's widow, told the Sun Journal last week that Buddy had questioned the wisdom of training the Afghan recruits. "He said he didn't think it was right to train these people and give them guns," she told the Sun Journal.
The revelation is particularly disturbing in light of confidential U.S. State Department cables made public this week showing rampant corruption in the Afghan leadership, including bribery, skimming from U.S. contracts and drug dealing.
Other reports show millions of dollars pouring into the country from U.S. enemies, and Afghan officials shipping millions out, sometimes in suitcases.
The cost of this war continues to mount, about $6 billion per month in Afghanistan alone. The two wars are estimated to have added about $1 trillion to the nation's nearly $14 trillion national debt.
But the real cost is the pain and sacrifice felt by Americans across the U.S.: Soldiers separated from their wives, children and families for multiple tours of duty. Soldiers left with severe physical and emotional injuries. And, the loved ones lost by the thousands of families across the U.S.
The real questions Maine's congressional delegation should be asking are simple:
Is this war winnable?
Is it worth the horrible price we're paying?
Let's be sure, or let's come home.