When Bill Perna read about the tiny town of Lee — population 845 — losing two of its sons in the Iraq war, he just had to find out more.

So Perna — a longtime commercial filmmaker — drove from Portland to Lee, north of Bangor and just outside of Lincoln.

“I just sat in a diner and watched people,” Perna said. “Finally, after two or three visits, I worked up the nerve to talk to the local pastor, then to the families.”

Eventually, Perna ended up talking to a lot of people in town, enough to create a 60-minute documentary film called “Welcome to Lee Maine.”

The film had its first showing in December, in Lee, and now Perna is working on arranging showings at theaters around Maine.

The film looks at how the rural town came together, beginning in 2007, after the deaths of Joel House and Blair Emery, both members of the Army.

House was killed by a bomb while on patrol in Iraq in June of that year. Emery was also killed by a bomb while on patrol, in November. House was 22 and Emery was 24. The two had grown up together, gone to school together, played soccer together.

And their deaths brought the town together.

“Even though Lee is the town where this happened, the film depicts small town rural Maine. The support from everyone has been incredible,” said Paul House, Joel’s father.

Part of the film chronicles townspeople, led by the House and Emery families, working to start a local retreat for veterans and veterans’ families, on a lake in Lakeville, called “House in the Woods.” A few times a year, families come to the retreat from all over the country, to hunt, or fish, or just relax.

“There are some very emotional parts in the film, seeing my son’s funeral and the Emery boy’s memorial,” House said. “I’m hoping that what people will see is that out of this tragedy, the small town of Lee came together and did something positive.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]