Thursday, September 02, 2010

Death of South Carolina soldier illustrates Iraq war's high toll on rural America

In the wake of President Obama's announcement this week of the end of combat operations in Iraq, a rural South Carolina area's story from the war is an important reminder to the disproportionate toll military service has on rural areas. Rodricka Youmans of Allendale, S.C., joined the Marine Corps in 2003 after failing to find a job in his hometown and was killed less than a year later in Iraq, Johnny Edwards of The Augusta Chronicle reports. "What happened to Youmans is a stark example of the heavy toll paid by Allendale County and other small communities in the Iraq war," Edwards writes. "Their price in flag-draped coffins, according to community leaders and demographic research, has been disproportionately high, attributable to the economic ills in much of rural America."

Ten of the 18 soldiers killed in Iraq from the greater Augusta area came from towns of 7,000 people or fewer, Edwards reports. The newspaper's analysis of Pentagon and Census Bureau data showed "Allendale County and neighboring Barnwell County, both rife with poverty and unemployment, suffered South Carolina's highest and second-highest rates of Iraq war deaths per capita," Edwards writes, noting "nationally, among the top 10 for losses per capita were such sparsely populated states as Vermont -- which had the highest rate at 0.35 deaths per 10,000 people -- Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota and South Dakota."

"He [Youmans] joined because he was looking for a job," Rodricka's father, Johnnie Youmans, told Edwards. "If he could have found a job, he probably wouldn't have gone in." Using data from the Defense Department, the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Census Bureau, a 2006-07 study from the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute "found that the death rate for outlying counties was 48 percent higher than in metropolitan or suburban counties," Edwards writes. "Though only 19 percent of the nation's adult population lives in rural areas, those areas suffered 26 percent of the casualties." (Read more)

No comments: