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Vermont military families grieve losses together

NBC's Dawn Fratangelo visits Bridgport, Vt., where families are reaching out to help each other grieve the losses of  a war they don't support.

At a local VFW hall, the talk is about the fallen. Families lighting candles for those lost.

"He was a terrific son who was bigger than life and loved life more than anything," says Alan Bean.

His son, 22-year-old Alan, Jr., a member of the National Guard, was killed in May 2004.

His parents, like many around the nation when it comes to the troops, are torn between a love of family and a love of country.

"I'm not for leaving them over there either, but I don't want to bring them back too soon — and have to go back again," Alan says.

"And I just think they should all come home," Kim Bean says. "Now."

Their son's funeral, like so many others here, drew hundreds and made frontpage news. Vermont has a long history of participation in the National Guard. It provides a good bonus to a rural income and is a natural extension of the rugged, outdoor lifestyle here.

Although Vermont is a blue state that opposes the war, it is unsparing in its support of those fighting it.

"We may oppose it, but we're not going to do it in such a way that directly hurts our neighbors if we can help it," says University of Vermont political science professor Frank Bryan. "Because we see that pain face-to-face."

That pain is captured in a documentary produced by students at Norwich Military University. Students like Craig McGrath have interviewed most every family who's lost someone.

"It's not them telling you a story, they're saying this is what is happening in my life and you're astonished that they can get through it," McGrath says.

The project has united these families into one big family.

"It totally turned my whole life around," says Kim Bean.

"We lean on one another, we laugh together, we cry together," adds Alan Bean.

"I'm lighting this candle for my brother. I really wish I could have met him," says 10-year-old Adam, who needed a home. Amid all their anguish, the Beans are adopting him.

"Alan can never be replaced, but you can give another child a chance to have a life," says Kim Bean.

A rural state's unique bond goes on.