Illinois town posts names of deployed soldiers along streets

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SULLIVAN, Ill. -- Residents of this small central Illinois town don't have to wonder which community members are serving Iraq and Afghanistan. All they have to do is drive around town.

Lampposts and telephone poles along two streets are adorned with white signs, each bearing the name of a resident who is serving his or her country. More than 100 residents of the town of 4,400 have served in the current wars and dozens are still deployed.

The names were first nailed to the lampposts in 2004, and parents kept posting the signs as more and more Sullivan residents were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. If someone comes home and then is redeployed, their name goes back up. If more than one member of a family is serving, their names are displayed on the same post.

The signs aren't the only way the town supports its soldiers and their families. They hold holiday parties to send care packages overseas, they meet for coffee and they've set up a telephone tree to keep everyone informed if something happens.

"We all kind of met at the post office, sending our kids stuff. We started talking," said Marsha Thompson, 53, whose son John Booker served a tour in Iraq and now works on Chinook helicopters in Afghanistan.

The National Guard's Headquarters Co. of the 634th Brigade Support Battalion helps spouses of deployed soldiers complete taxes and other paperwork. But most of the support in town comes from families help families.

"You've been there, done that," said Mike Shasteen, 63, whose son Jake went to Iraq with the Guard. "You know what they've been through."

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