Video: The home front

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/24/2006 7:54:38 PM ET 2006-03-25T00:54:38

At Susquehanna High in rural Pennsylvania, every student knows principal Mike Lisowski.

And they know National Guard Sgt. Jim Ditchie, too, one of the recruiters welcome in a school where even in wartime the military's an attractive option.

Jeremy Truax chose the Marines. "I'm more of a hands-on person, more than going to school," he says.

Tim Redington chose the Air Force, even if it means Iraq. "I'm not really worried about it," says Redington.

Chris Serra is another future Marine. "I want to serve my country," he says.

But for all the authentic patriotism here, and support for those who serve, even Ditchie has heard more and more doubts raised about the war itself.

"A lot of the American people think we're not doing what we need to be doing there," says  Ditchie.

Susquehanna is like a lot of hardscrabble America, still providing the sons and daughters doing the bulk of the fighting, and the dying, in Iraq. The high school honored seven local sons who died last fall.

"It was just about the soldiers, about their families," says Lisowski.

Among the dead, 39-year-old George Pugliese, a husband and father of three, whose mother was touched by that service even though her grief is colored by other emotions.

"I won't say embittered, but disillusioned," says Dolores Parker.

Pugliese's brother is now thoroughly anti-war. "It seems pretty shallow, the reasons we've been given," says Steve Pugliese.

They are a family torn by loss and anger.

"He died for what he believed in, but his beliefs were different from mine," says Dolores Parker.

Bruce, Miss., is a small town with similar conflicts. The postmaster, four mechanics in the local garage, and Marshall Coleman at the general store all went to war three years ago. And though there's still support for the war, there are more questions now, too.

"We're there and we're going to have to win to come out," says resident Buford Usry.

"It's time to start looking at other options," says veteran Marshall Coleman.

Still, here, as in the Pennsylvania hills, they continue to leave home.

Nineteen-year-old Willie Whitmore left just this week for Army basic training and —almost certainly — for war.

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