"Middle America Fights Our Wars"

July 14, 2011 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography

Leenawee County Fair, Michigan, 2007
Eric Smith: Leenawee County Fair, Michigan, 2007

From History's Big Picture

Eric Smith has gone in search of Middle America, which he defines as the people living in the nation's small towns and the less-than-glamorous cities far from the coasts. "Middle America drives our economy, defines popular culture, and fights our wars." 

Smith isn't an economist, and he admits that perhaps he's wrong about the cultural impact of the spending power of small towns. But an Associated Press study has confirmed his belief about their importance to the Iraq war: half of U.S. troops killed in Iraq came from communities with fewer than 25,000 people. And one in five soldiers hails from a town with fewer than 5,000 residents, according to AP.

Smith took a picture at afuneral in a high- school gymnasium in Morley, Mich. "The town's so small that two towns had to come together to build a high school, but it was standing room only with 500 bikers lined up outside," he said. "A lot of these kids were football players and popular. They are 18, 19, 20, or 21 — fresh out of high school — so the whole school shows up."

Funeral for Iraq War Soldier, Morley, Michigan,2006
Eric Smith: Funeral for Iraq War Soldier, Morley, Michigan,2006

Tags: Iraq war war photography History's Big Picture