Monday, January 28, 2008

Former UI Student Killed in Afghanistan

Robert J. Miller, 24, who moved to Iowa City to pursue his love for gymnastics at the University of Iowa, died on a battlefield in Afghanistan four years later.

The Department of Defense announced Saturday that Army Staff Sgt. Miller died from wounds he received during enemy small-arms fire during combat operations for Operation Enduring Freedom in Barikowt, Afghanistan. Miller, a Special Forces weapons sergeant, was assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) based out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

Miller, a native of Harrisburg, Pa., enrolled in the U of I because of his interest in the gymnastics program. "He hoped to be on the gymnastics team," his mother, Maureen Miller, told The Daily Iowan. Miller’s mother also said that her son had been interested in the military.

Although Miller never made it on the Iowa gymnastics team, he was an active member of the gymnastics program. After his freshman year, however, he enlisted in the Army in 2003. Upon graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2005, Miller earned his Green Beret status.

Miller deployed for service in 2006. During his deployment, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. His other awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, two Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, NATO Medal, Parachutist Badge, Ranger Tab and Special Forces Tab.

Miller is survived by his parents, Philip and Maureen Miller, brothers Thomas, Martin, and Edward, and sisters Joanna, Mary, Therese, and Patricia, all of Oviedo, Fla.

Miller is the 64th person with ties to Iowa to die from injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan since March 2003.
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Zirkelbach Leading Charge for Iowa’s Veterans and Citizen Soldiers

The Iowa House Veterans Affairs Committee’s new chair, Ray Zirkelbach, D-Monticello, is poised to lead the fight for veterans this session, vowing to pave the way for a smoother transition for Iowa’s growing population of citizen soldiers. “We’re dealing with a whole new generation of veterans and these are citizen soldiers,” Zirkelbach told the Iowa Independent during an interview. “These are National Guardsmen and reserves' soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and have to transition back into their civilian lives. We don’t have an active-duty base in Iowa, so it’s going to be huge transition. We have a lot of homegrown veterans, a number of which are from rural areas.”

Although Iowa is faced with a growing influx of citizen soldiers from recent wars, Zirkelbach does not want veterans from past wars such as Korea and Vietnam to be forgotten. “They were kind of let down by our government in the past and now it’s my generation, the Iraq war veterans, who need to help get them up to speed,” Zirkelbach said.

Having recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq last year with the Iowa National Guard’s 133rd Infantry Battalion, Zirkelbach is no stranger to leading the fight. During his last tour in Iraq, Zirkelbach was a team leader with his infantry unit. His squad was responsible for providing convoy security in al-Anbar Province, where they helped bring in about one-third of the goods from Jordan.

While deployed to Iraq, Zirkelbach not only missed the birth of his first child, Claire, but the last two legislative sessions of the Iowa House. “The hardest part of my most recent deployment to Iraq was missing my family,” Zirkelbach said. “I missed the birth of my daughter and the first 16 months of her life. My wife and I found out right before we were being deployed that she was pregnant, so I missed the whole pregnancy, the birth and Claire’s first birthday.”

Missing the last two sessions also put a mental strain on Zirkelback, who said that it was hard not being able to actively serve and represent his constituents while he was deployed. “I told people back home that if you want somebody else in there, they should do so,” Zirkelbach said. “But they did nominate me and sent me back into office, which I am grateful for.” In his absence, the Eastern Iowa Democratic delegation and Sen. Tom Hancock, D-Dubuque, helped take care of Zirkelbach’s constituents’ concerns.

House Speaker Patrick Murphy, D-Dubuque, appointed Zirkelbach chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee during the legislative-session interim. “Murphy wanted me there as ranking member when the Democrats were in the minority and now that we are in the majority, he appointed me chair,” Zirkelbach said.

Although he didn’t benefit from the hands-on political experience during the last two sessions, Zirkelbach’s experiences in Iraq did give him a new perspective on how to approach his legislative duties. “I can sit back more and analyze things more deeply than I did during my first year in the House,” Zirkelbach said. “Iraq was an eye-opening experience, and I learned to appreciate things that you can only learn to appreciate while serving in a third-world country. It broadened my perspective on a lot of things.”

That said, Zirkelbach said he wants to set the tone this session by focusing on more issues of substance. “It seemed like a lot of the veterans' issues pushed since 9/11 have been feel-good goals,” Zirkelbach said. “As chair I want to focus more on substance issues that will address problems facing veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular mental-heath care and medical care – especially accessibility for veterans living in rural areas.” To address this, Zirkelbach introduced House File 2033, which calls for full mental-health parity for veterans and requires employers and insurance providers to cover veterans’ mental-health care and substance abuse as part of their health care.

Zirkelbach noted that compared with the other states, Iowa has consistently ranked close to the bottom when it comes to veterans' benefits. “Knowing how the state government works, we know that these changes won’t happen overnight, but we will focus on the immediacy of veterans’ issues by targeting some of the more important problems facing Iowa’s veterans,” Zirkelbach said.

Moreover, the Veterans Affair Committee faces the fiscal challenge of vying for funding for any existing and new veterans' programs. There have been some concerns in the veterans’ community that Gov. Chet Culver’s budget proposal doesn’t allocate enough funding for veterans, other than the money designated for the Marshalltown Veterans Home.

Zirkelbach remains optimistic about the budget and says veterans’ advocates need to be patient and take a look at the big picture. “Most of the funding for veterans-related bills comes out of other appropriation subcommittee’s budgets,” Zirkelbach said. “That’s another issue in itself. I would like to see the Veterans Affairs Committee have its own appropriations subcommittee, so we have more control on what we fund and how much we can fund on veterans’ programs.

Adding to the state’s fiscal constraints, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shifted a great deal of the financial burden on the states, which increasingly, have to pick up the financial tab for veterans' programs in their respective states. “The federal government has been dumping on states and using and abusing us. There’s a lot of misleading going on,” Zirkelbach said.

“It’s clear that the president and the people in control did not foresee the future problems facing our citizen soldiers. Members in our unit had to find out the hard way upon their return from Iraq. It’s never been such a mess, and you would think that the federal government would treat us in a better manner.”

Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lawmakers One Step Closer to Protecting Returning Soldiers’ Jobs

(Update: The House passed House File 2065 this morning. There were no votes against the bill and it now heads to the Senate. Employers who fail to follow the law face possible simple misdemeanor charges with up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $625. Under the proposed changes to the law, a county attorney could request the Iowa Attorney General follow through with prosecution. That change would help expedite soldiers’ claims and help ensure swifter justice ensure, lawmakers said.)

Iowa’s soldiers may no longer have to worry about whether they will have a job when returning from active-duty deployment. A measure, House File 2065, which protecting returning Iowa’s National Guard and reserve soldier’s jobs passed its first hurdle.The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved the bipartisan initiative 15-0 Wednesday. The plan will ensure that soldiers called to active duty can return to their jobs after service at the same pay and status level.

"Men and women called to active duty deserve our support,” McKinley Bailey, D-Webster City, the lead sponsor of the bill said in a statement. “After serving our country and being separated from their families, the least we can do is ensure an easy transition back to civilian life, which includes going back to their job at the same pay and status level.”

The legislation was first proposed at a news conference in Des Moines back in October by Bailey and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines.

While the federal law, USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act), requires employers to hold a position for a returning soldier, proponents of the new mesure contend that if an employer is not fully compliant with the law, a soldier’s only recourse is to file a lawsuit that can take years to resolve."It puts some more teeth into it," McCarthy said in an October statement. "It's a more streamlined process, a process that's closer to home."

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Ray Zirkelbach, D-Monticello, echoed McCarthy’s response. “The bill will give attorneys at the county level more power to go after and prosecute employers who are not compliant with USERRA in a more timely manner,” Zirkelbach told the Iowa Independent. Zirkelbach is optimistic about the bill, the first one introduced in the 2008 session, and thinks it has a good chance of passing in the House by the end of the week.

Employers, however, are no longer held liable if the position or business itself was discontinued during the time of the employee’s deployment. The proposal in Iowa would create possible criminal charges for violators and make the appeals process less cumbersome. It also would require employers to reimburse military members for pay lost during the time their jobs were denied to them.

To help illustrate the federal law’s shortcomings, Capt. Pam Reynolds, a physical therapist from Ames who served a 15-month deployment beginning in 2006, accompanied the lawmakers at the October press conference. Upon returning from her service, Reynolds was told she could apply for a physical therapist position at Green Hills Retirement Community in Ames, a similar job but with lower pay."Most of us coming back are just wanting to get into the community," Reynolds told the Des Moines Register in October. "We definitely don't want to be where I'm standing right now. We just want back into our normal routine. While many veterans realize that federal law protects their jobs, the understanding is vague and many don't know how to react, Reynolds said. "We know there's a law out there," she said. "We don't know what it means."

Often times, employer’s non-compliance with USERRA is not intentional, rather, employers didn’t know about their obligations under the law. To help remedy this, the Department of Defense (DoD) created the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), which helps educate soldiers and employers about the federal law. “We’re not litigators. We are just here to help enhance communication between employer and employee to help resolve any conflicts,” ESGR State Chair Barry Spears told the Iowa Independent in October. “We’ve had a good track record in the two-and-a-half years I’ve been here, and we have not had a problem go unresolved.”

Most of the problems that do arise are namely because of misunderstandings, misinterpretation, or because of ignorance on behalf of either the employer or the employee said Spears. Asked whether Iowa needed a law that would enforce the current federal regulations, Spears said that anything that can be done to help support these civilian members is important. “That’s why we should work hard to take care of them, so they don’t have to worry about these types of problems when they return from deployment,” Spears said.

Bailey Introduces Bill to Protect Veterans Employment

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Play Keeps Iowans’ Vietnam Experiences Alive

More than 30 years have passed since the United States ended its military involvement in Vietnam, but for those who fought in the war, the memories will never end. Vietnam veteran and novelist Tim O’Brien captures the figurative weight of this emotional burden in his award-winning novel “The Things They Carried,” a fictionalized account of a foot soldier’s experiences during the Vietnam War.

In 1989, Marilyn Shaw of Cedar Falls wanted to preserve these memories through the oral tradition, which she adapted into an oral-interpretive play, “Iowa Stories: The Vietnam Experience.” The play will be brought to life for the fourth time, the latest run scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at the Theater Cedar Rapids. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
Shaw, a 57-year-old professor of communication studies at the University of Northern Iowa, was first drawn to the notion of capturing the stories of Iowans who served in Vietnam from her daughter.

“When my daughter, a sophomore in high school at the time (1989), came home and asked me what I knew about the Vietnam War, I didn’t really know what to tell her,” Shaw told the Iowa Independent in a phone interview. “All I remember was watching the body counts on the television with my parents every night and being afraid, but not knowing why I was afraid.”

In light of this experience, Shaw asked her students in an oral interpretation class at the UNI what they knew about the Vietnam War, and most of them could only recount a few paragraphs they read in their high school textbooks. This sense of historic amnesia inspired Shaw to interview 28 people, and she interwove their stories into nine character archetypes for her play. Through her experiences during the interview process, Shaw confides that she learned three valuable lessons. “Although each person I interviewed had different personal experiences with the war, a number of universal themes did manifest,” Shaw said. “The one motif that kept resurfacing in my mind is that it’s b to hate the war, but you shouldn’t hate the warrior.”

Something else that Shaw learned was that each and every one of the men and women she interviewed, despite being reluctant to speak at first, was very much dedicated to the concept of service. “I think this may have to do with their Midwest upbringing. Either way they saw serving in Vietnam as their job and duty to their country,” Shaw said. “They were aware of the tensions stateside while serving, but didn’t feel they weren’t appreciated. What really surprised me was that all but one of those interviewed said they would go back and do it all over again if they had to.”

When they were asked why, they said: “So their children and their children’s children, or anybody else for that matter, wouldn’t have to do it.”

The initial run of the play in 1990 toured for about 10 months, traversing 25 locations in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri and culminating with a July 3 performance on a grassy knoll by the memorial wall in Washington, D.C. “It was amazing to see the play performed in a public arena and to see the reflection of the play off the Vietnam Memorial Wall,” Shaw said.
Four years later, the cast was asked to perform at the rededication of the Iowa Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Des Moines over Memorial Day weekend. Matthew Ford, one of the cast members of the ’94 play, will direct the play in Cedar Rapids. The show's 10th-anniversary cast performed it over Memorial Day weekend in 2000 while the traveling wall was displayed in Cedar Falls.

Shaw is pleased that her play goes on and attributes its 18-year lifespan to weathering the test of time. “Whenever dealing with oral history in stories, one of two things make it historical in my mind: whether it’s educational or a form of therapeutic value,” Shaw said. “'Iowa Stories’ does both. It not only helps educate the public, but it served a therapeutic value for the veterans I interviewed, giving them a chance to share and unburden their stories.”

Proceeds from the play will go to Vietnam Veterans of America #568 in Cedar Rapids, who in turn are passing on at least $4,500 to Vets Helping Vets, the Iowa City group grappling with veteran homelessness. Tom Kelly and Len McClellan, co-founders of Vets Helping Vets, will be introduced at Thursday’s performance and will be presented with the donation.

Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"

Monday, January 14, 2008

Donors Beware: Some Veterans Charities Shortchanging Wounded Troops

One of the hidden costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is caring for the wounded troops returning from these theaters. In May 2007, the Department of Defense reported 25,090 wounded troops in Iraq since the wars began in March 2003. To help shoulder these costs, a number of veterans charities have raised millions of dollars to help care for the wounded.

However, a leading watchdog organization, the American Institute of Philanthropy, released a report last month suggesting that 12 of the 29 charities the organization studied earned a failing grade. The API has instituted a 60 percentile passing threshold, meaning at least 60 cents for every dollar raised is spent directly on veterans and charitable programs. The worst ratings went to the American Veterans Relief Foundation, which passed along 1 cent for every dollar raised, and the National Veterans Service Fund, which passed along 2 cents on the dollar.

There are no laws regulating the amount of money charities spend on overhead. The API report contends that 20 of the 29 charities have mismanaged their resources, whether paying high overhead costs or direct-mail fundraising fees to for-profit consultants. Furthermore, some of the higher overheads are due to six-figure salaries paid out to the charities’ leaders, including Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV), which the Washington Post reports paid its founder and his wife a combined $540,000 in compensation and benefits last year.

This has drawn the ire of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who has been a longtime critic of charities that are abusing their tax-exempt status. "Taxpayers are subsidizing that tax exemption," Grassley said in a statement. "Sitting on donors' money or spending too much on contracts and salaries doesn't benefit the public."

Daniel Borochoff, president of the API, also cited HHV, a charity that provides therapeutic arts and crafts kits to the hospitalized veterans, as an egregious example of abuse. The API reported HHV’s income at $71.3 million last year; the charity spent about a third of that on charitable work.

The charity was founded in 1971 by Roger Chapin, 75, who received $426,434 in salary and benefits the past fiscal year. His wife, Elizabeth, 73, received $113,623 in salary and benefits as a “newsletter editor.” The Washington Post reports that HHV, in its tax filings, reported paying more than $4 million to direct-mail fundraising consultants. The group also has run television advertisements featuring actor Sam Waterston, game show host Pat Sajak and other celebrities.

Borochoff points the finger at professional for-profit fundraising consultants and companies that charities hire. “The wool is being pulled over the eyes of the donating public by some F-rated charities,” Borochoff said in a statement while testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Dec. 13, 2007.

“Veterans and other charities often enter into contracts with professional fundraising businesses that may keep (for their profits and expenses) 80 percent or more of the contributions raised,” Borochoff informed the committee. “National Veterans Services Fund (NVSF) filed a 2004 contract with Bee LC that guarantees at least 15 percent of the gross revenues ‘for calling of individuals who have previously donated by telephone via this contract to NVSF.’”

The NVSF’s Web site states that the charity was founded in 1978 and is a not-for-profit organization located in Darien, Conn., that provides case-managed social services and limited medical assistance to Vietnam and Persian Gulf War veterans and their families, with a focus on families with disabled children.

Grassley also testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at the “Assessing Veterans Charities” hearing. Grassley not only took veterans charities to task, but called for more rigid accountability and congressional oversight for all not-for-profit charities. “We need to ensure that the public continues to have confidence in these institutions,” Grassley said in a prepared statement. “Our veterans need to know that Congress is taking a hard eye at these charities to ensure that veterans are appropriately benefiting from donations.”

“Charities also receive billions of dollars in government grants, contracts and payments. Charities represent a bigger part of the economy than people might realize – just a little under 10 percent of the economy and the work force,” Grassley said in his testimony before recommending a possible solution. “So often, I see problems with charities because there is not in place basic governance – that is, independent, active board members – that are minding the store. Your committee should consider the possibility of requiring basic good governance structures and best practices – similar to those advocated by the Nonprofit Panel and watchdog groups such as the American Institute of Philanthropy – as a requirement for charities that participate in the Combined Federal Campaign or receive federal grants and contracts.”

Despite some of these failing charities, there are some that have helped benefit the wounded warriors returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "In the rush to help, there's a lot of innovative work and good work happening, but there's also a lot of fraud and waste," Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Washington Post. "There's never been a greater need for veterans charities in a generation, and I hope issues like this don't deter people from giving."

Two such groups, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF) and the Fisher House Foundation (FHH), received A ratings by the API.

The IFHF was established in 2003 and has provided close to $60 million in support for the families of military personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans. IFHF claims on its Web site that 100 percent of the contributions go towards programs, while all administrative expenses are underwritten by the fund’s trustees. In January 2007, the IFHF completed construction of a $40 million world-class state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The “Center for the Intrepid” serves military personnel who have been catastrophically disabled in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and veterans severely injured in other operations and in the normal performance of their duties.

The Fisher House is a program designed to provide military members and their families with services that meet a need beyond what the DoD and the Veterans Affairs would normally provide. Fisher House donates comfort homes that enable family members to be close to their wounded love ones during hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease or injury. There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center, and the foundation has served more than 10,000 families and has made available nearly 2.5 million days of lodging to family members since the program began in 1990.

Jim Weiskopf, spokesman for Fisher House, told the Washington Post that one reason his charity has had a higher ratio of success and lower overhead is that it does not use direct-mail advertising. "As soon as you do direct mail, your fundraising expenses go up astronomically," he said.

Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Dem Vets Scatter Endorsements Among Dodd, Obama, Biden

One thing members of the Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus (IDVC) agreed upon, other than the “Four Points of Honor,” was that the Democrats had a strong field of candidates to choose from this year. Taking their cue from John Kerry’s successful investment in targeting Iowa veterans during his late surge and comeback victory in the 2004 Iowa Caucuses, this year's field has made similar attempts in courting the veteran vote.

Consequently, choosing a candidate to support was not an easy decision for most of the groups’ members, including IDVC Chair Bob Krause, who was originally leaning toward Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, but ended up endorsing Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. “While we do have an excellent field of candidates, I'm caucusing for Chris Dodd because I trust him more than any other candidate to lead the nation when the unexpected occurs and to deliver results for his fellow veterans,” Krause said in a statement.

IDVC Chair Bob Krause (right) looks on as U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., (left) speaks on behalf of Dodd at Dec. IDVC meeting

Krause told the Iowa Independent that he was leaning toward Obama, but when his campaign did not endorse the first resolution of the IDVC’s “Four Points of Honor,” which calls for mandatory federal funding for veterans’ health care for all veterans, Krause reassessed the other candidates and chose Dodd. While Obama was the only Democratic candidate who partially endorsed the Four Points, all of the other, except Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, have endorsed the resolution.

The Obama campaign’s reluctance to endorse the first point of the resolution did not deter IDVC Communication Liaison Kent Sovern, who announced last week that he was vacating his post as statewide co-chair of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Veterans Committee to caucus for Obama. “I agree that mandatory-funded health care is important for veterans, but I’m convinced that Obama’s pledge to build a 21st century Veterans Administration goes beyond the funding issue,” Sovern, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, told the Iowa Independent. “The deterioration of the VA has happened over the past few decades and whoever wins will have to work expressly with the Congress to remedy how it’s funded. Obama’s plan will use a wiser allocation of resources across the board.”

Sovern also admitted that his switch to Obama was based on his perception that he’s more electable than Clinton. “The biggest thing for me went beyond the veterans’ issues,” Sovern said. “The more I was exposed to other veterans’ campaigns around the country, the more I came to realize that Obama is more electable than Clinton, and in the end, electability became the defining issue for me.”

Terry Phillips (left), Joe Stutler (middle), Kent Sovern (right) man the IDVC table at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Dec.

Similar to Kerry, who was a decorated Vietnam War veteran, Krause was also swayed by the fact that Dodd is the only Democratic candidate who has served in the military (U.S. Army Reserves and Army National Guard: 1969-1975). “As a 28-year veteran of the Army Reserves, I know we need a commander-in-chief who is ready to take on the job from day one,” Krause said in a statement. “He will provide the leadership to restore America's security and good name around the world, as well as produce results on our challenges at home.”

Dodd’s veteran status and firsthand knowledge of veterans’ issues also influenced Terry K. Phillips, a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, and Joe Stutler, an Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. “I was so impressed with his plan being the most comprehensive in solving the problems facing veterans that I agreed to serve as the state veteran coordinator for the Dodd campaign,” Phillips told the Iowa Independent.

Stutler echoed Phillips’ remarks and noted Dodd’s active support of the IDVC. “Not only does Dodd support veterans’ issues, but he’s supported the IDVC every time we’ve asked him.” Stutler had made a commitment to himself that he would support whoever showed up to the IDVC Presidential Extravaganza in August, and his decision was made for him when Dodd was the only presidential candidate who showed up to speak at the event.

In addition to Sovern’s endorsement, Obama has garnered support across multiple generations of veterans in the IDVC, including Andrew W. Hampton, whose recent fame came about at an Obama campaign stop in Mason City Dec. 26. Hampton, a 79-year-old retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, teared up when asking Obama about health care for military veterans, thus prompting Obama to walk over and hug him.

“It was an amazing personal experience, which was enlarged by a promise given by Senator Obama to the veterans of our nation,” Hampton wrote in an email message to fellow IDVC members. “He made a promise to work to support all of our veterans and to help secure what has been promised to them.”

Moreover, Obama picked up endorsements from Larry G. Olk and Marc Wallace, both of whom are actively caucusing for Obama. Wallace, an Army veteran who served in Germany as a linguist during the latter part of the ‘80s, is a precinct captain in Des Moines, while Olk, a Vietnam War Army veteran, serves on Obama’s Vets’ Caucus Steering Committee. “Obama stands out in possessing a unique skill set that includes deep commitment, impeccable honor and honesty, persuasiveness and most important a consensus builder," Olk told the Iowa Independent in an email. “I have not seen that in one package since JFK.”

IDVC member Jim Mowrer, who now serves as the Iowa chair for Veterans for Biden, was also prompted by his military service to get actively involved in the presidential campaign. Mowrer, who recently returned from Iraq with the Iowa National Guard’s 1-133 Infantry Battalion, where he served as a senior intelligence analyst, committed to Joe Biden because of a promise the Delaware senator kept to the troops on the ground in Iraq.

“Senator Biden kept his promise to us that he would fight for the funds needed to produce Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles which dramatically reduce the number of casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” Mowrer said in a statement to the Iowa Independent. “When other presidential candidates were going back on their word to support those of us in harm's way, only Senator Biden remained steadfast in his support, regardless of any political consequences.”

It was this same promise and Biden’s plan for Iraq that helped garner the legislator endorsement of IDVC member and Iowa House Rep.McKinley Bailey of Webster City. "After returning from serving in Iraq, I quickly grew frustrated by my impression that leaders in both political parties did not understand the fundamental challenges to ending the war in Iraq," Bailey said in a press release.

"When I first learned of Senator Biden's plan, I realized that was the ticket - a political solution, not a military one,” Bailey said. “I am endorsing him because from day one, our next president must make decisions on the direction in Iraq and I am convinced Senator Biden has the knowledge and experience to bring our troops home without leaving a situation that requires another generation of Americans to return in a decade."

Veterans for Biden National Coordinator J.B. White sits at one of two tables reserved for veterans supporting Biden at Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Nov.

Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"