Vermont Leads in Per-Capita War Deaths
By Nick Timiraos, Special to Stateline
Americans celebrate Independence Day this weekend at a time when the country remains in a war that has claimed 1,741 American lives. Two states share the distinction of having suffered the most casualties in the Iraq War, depending on how losses are counted.
California, the nation's most populous state, has the most casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom - 191, according to Pentagon figures.
Vermont, meanwhile, has the most casualties per capita. In a state of just over 600,000, 11 men and women from Vermont have died in the war, or 1.77 per 100,000 citizens. After Vermont, states with the most deaths per capita are North Dakota (9), Wyoming (6), South Dakota (8) and Mississippi (29).
With 161 deaths, Texas, the second-largest state by population, has the second-highest casualty count in the war, followed by New York (82), Pennsylvania (81) and Florida (73).
With two casualties, Alaska has both the fewest total deaths and the fewest deaths per capita. Washington, D.C., has the second-fewest casualties, with three, and Hawaii -- with four -- ranks second lowest in deaths per capita..
Each governor handles funerals for their state's fallen warriors differently. Some, such as Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D), a U.S. Marine veteran, have made it a point to attend and speak at every funeral. The Pentagon lists Oregon as the home of record for 33 men and women killed in Iraq, but Kulongoski has attended more than 45 funerals. Kulongoski's Web site displays photos and short biographies of 49 military men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who lived, were based, attended school or had family ties in Oregon.
Other governors attend funerals less often or never, seeking to avoid politicization or making a media event of a military funeral. In California, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office publishes a press release for each fighting man or woman killed who resided in or was based in the state and lowers the Sacramento Statehouse flag to half-staff.
The per-capita figures are calculated by dividing war deaths for each state by the 2004 estimated U.S. Census Bureau figures for state population. War deaths by state are available at the private Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count Web site and alphabetically by service at a Defense Department Web site. Casualties are tallied from March 21, 2003, the date of the first death after the U.S. launched military operations on March 19, 2003, through June 27, 2005. Included in the 1,741 total of deaths are 28 American military men and women who listed hometowns in a U.S. territory or foreign country.