Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Iowa Front: Military & Veterans’ Weekly Roundup

When I originally used the “Iowa Front” as part of the title of this ongoing weekly update, one of the presumptions was that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had hit home in Iowa. On some levels it has, especially for the families directly impacted by the absence and/or death of a loved one. While watching this morning’s Democrat presidential debate, which was hosted in Iowa’s capitol, one would discern that, given all the time spent discussing the war in Iraq, we’re a nation at war -- at least politically.

But have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan really hit home for most Iowans?

“The burdens, sacrifices, and hardships of military service fall on fewer and fewer families. This country is not at war,” said Major General Youngman (pic left), who spoke on behalf of John Edwards at the Iowa Presidential Extravaganza, hosted in Des Moines by the Iowa Democratic Party Veterans’ Caucus. “For their convenience, the press says we are at war, but go out to the mall and see if you see any signs that we are a nation at war.”

But even this statement was a stretch on Youngman’s part, given there were no members of the mainstream media in attendance. Granted, this gave the Iowa Independent exclusive coverage of the event, which came as a surprise considering the list of guest speakers scheduled to speak, which included presidential candidate Chris Dodd, D.-Conn., Sen. Tom Harkin, D.-Ia., Rep. Leonard Boswell, D.-Ia., former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden and son of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, two decorated Vietnam veterans, and a recent combat veteran of the Iraq War.

Military Front

“Half-Staff Flags Rarely Visible on Funeral Days”: John Carlson’s column relates the incident of a “borderline disgusted” caller, who was upset by the number of flags that weren’t being flown half-staff Monday, despite Gov. Chet Culver’s directive issued the previous Friday ordering that the flags be flown half-staff Monday to honor Marine Sgt. Jon Bonnell, Jr., 22, of Fort Dodge, who was killed in Iraq on August 6, 2007. P.J. Sesker Green, the aunt of Sgt. Daniel Sesker, an Iowa National Guard soldier killed last year, asked a number of businesses why they weren’t flying their flags at half-staff. So Sesker-Green stopped at a few places and asked questions. "I told them the governor asked everybody to do it on the day of a funeral as a sign of respect," she said. "Some people told me they'd never heard such a thing. Some told me they didn't know anything about the Marine being buried that day. I think all of them were embarrassed."

Culver’s executive order directly applies to all U.S. and state flags under the control of the state. Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties, and other government subdivisions are encouraged, but not required by law, to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect, had not been thoroughly communicated to the business community. Unfortunately, this directive hasn't been effectively communicated on behalf of Culver and the media, therefore it’s understanding that people in the business community may be unaware of its existence and when it's been issued. (Des Moines Register)

Political/Veterans’ Front

“Dodd: Bush Administration’s Caring Words ‘Ring Hollow’ with Veterans”: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd, D.-Conn., could not care less about what a politician has to say, but, he cares about what a politician has done. These words ring especially true when it comes to supporting the troops and taking care of veterans and their families. "I get really upset when I hear the Bush administration talk about how much they care about American veterans and soldiers," Dodd told a group of veterans at the Iowa Democratic Party Veteran's Caucus Presidential Extravaganza in Des Moines.

"I've spent four different occasions on the Senate floor just to get body armor for those serving in Iraq, only to be defeated every single time by the Republicans, who could not come up with the votes to support the body armor or compensate the families and communities who purchased body armor for their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan," Dodd said. "The Don Rumsfeld line, `You don't get the Army you deserve, you get the Army you got' reflects this administration's attitude toward our young people, which they placed in difficult situations without even the most basic protection. This is deeply disturbing to me, and when I hear comments about how much they care and compare this with the actions of this administration, these words ring hollow." (Iowa Independent)

“Harkin, Boswell Call Upon Presidentail Candidates to Honor Contracts with Veterans”: Iowa's Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell want their fellow veterans to get politically involved in the presidential campaign and hold the candidates accountable for their views on veterans' issues. "Every veteran has an obligation, just as we had an obligation to carry out our duties as soldiers, to be intimately involved in politics," said Harkin, a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War.

"I know all the Democratic candidates running for president know we need to fulfill our obligations to our veterans, and this is something we need to take out on the campaign trail," said Harkin. "This administration has cut back on veterans' benefits, health care, and they have short-changed our veterans just about every term. We've had to fight tooth and nail for veterans just to get the money they need through appropriations."

Boswell, a decorated Army veteran who served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War as an assault helicopter pilot, echoed Harkin's sentiments at the event Monday. "Our returning National Guardsmen have been serving one, two and three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but when they return, they don't receive the same treatment as our active duty members, and that's not right," said Boswell. "They should receive the same benefits and our presidential candidates should be hearing this from you." (Iowa Independent)

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