PANORA, Iowa – A small town welcomed home one of its soldiers Friday. Instead of jubilant well-wishers, there were 525 mourners who packed United Methodist Church.
To the rest of the country, Army Spec. Michael Mills was one of 191 Americans killed in the war. Though to Panora residents he was one of 28 people killed Feb. 25 when an Iraqi suicide bomb exploded.
To the 1,100 people here, Mike Mills was the 23-year-old hometown boy who carried on a family tradition by joining the Army.
His funeral Friday provided a somber contrast to the joyous reunions held for returning troops throughout the country.
After the ceremony, not a parade, but a stream of cars that stretched down Main Street from the church to the West Cemetery.
There were flags at half-staff and red, white and blue ribbons tied to flower sprays that surrounded the altar. And there were tears – of grief, not joy.
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