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Veterans Gather At Capitol

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By: MacKenzie Dreeszen 


Iowa veterans were recognized on Wednesday during Veterans Day on the Hill at the Capitol in Des Moines. Both rotundas were packed with veterans and their friends and families, and the long list of event sponsors included veteran advocacy groups and non-profits that assist veterans in Iowa.

Veterans and activists had opportunities to meet with legislators and stop by veteran organization booths. There was a brief program led by Dan Gannon, the chair of the Iowa Commission on Veterans Affairs, and Robert Steben, the interim executive director of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs.

The program began with a presentation of the flags by the Urbandale Color Guard followed by the national anthem, a prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance. During his opening remarks, Steben stressed that Iowa needs to make veterans issues a high priority.

“Helping our veterans shouldn’t be about money. It should be about making our veterans and their families as comfortable as possible. Helping veterans is also not about a political party. It’s not about being a Republican or a Democrat, but efforts to help veterans need to be bipartisan.”
Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds spoke of the Home Base Iowa initiative that was started three years ago under Governor Branstad. This public-private partnership helps veterans and transitioning service members by providing resources for education, job training, and career placement. More than 2,000 Iowa veterans have benefitted from this program, making Iowa a national leader in hiring veterans.
“Veterans possess a strong work ethic and are skilled at solving problems and communicating, which are traits that are important in the workplace. We need to make sure that Iowa veterans have opportunities to work and to raise their families in our state.”

Governor Branstad, also a veteran, recognized how veterans have positively impacted the state of Iowa.
“We have our veterans to thank for making Iowa the special place that it is. Therefore, we want to continue to make Iowa a better place for those who have served and are currently serving our country.”
Legislators who serve in leadership on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees acknowledged the strong character found in Iowa veterans and addressed the importance of having good relationships between lawmakers and the veteran community. Speakers included Senator Wally Horn, ranking member of Senate Veterans Affairs, Representative Steve Holt, chair of House Veterans Affairs, and Representative Jerry Kearns, ranking member of House Veterans Affairs.
Representative Holt, a Marine veteran, quoted famous World War II General Douglas MacArthur’s legendary 1962 West Point farewell speech.
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
Senator Horn, who served in Vietnam while he was in the Air Force, urged veterans and their families to have discourse with their elected officials.
“I encourage all of our veterans who are here today to contact your legislators and talk to them about the issues that you face.”
Other guests included Brigadier General William DeHaes of the Iowa National Guard and Brigadier General Jonathon McColumn, Commander of the 103rd ESC.
DeHaes believes that it is important for our youth to respect veterans. He quoted George Washington, “The willingness with which our young people serve in the military is directly proportional to how they view those who have served in the past”.
McColumn went on to say that it is important for everyone to appreciate the service of our veterans.
“When is a great time, a great opportunity, to recognize veterans? Today, tomorrow, every day, and the days in between.”
He also took pride in the quality of the US military.
“We don’t have conscription in the United States because so many are willing to serve their nation. Our goal is to provide the best, well-trained soldiers. There is no better place for that than in Iowa. I will never forget that I am an American, protecting our country and our way of life.”
General Jodi Tymeson of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown spoke about the high quality of care that is offered to Iowa veterans, and the US Small Business Association presented an award to the Black Hawk Economic Development in recognition of the loans that they offer to veterans who own and operate small businesses.
Robert Steben concluded the program by challenging the veterans in attendance to come back next year.
“I urge all of you to return next year. Bring your friends and family and help us to honor Iowa veterans and educate others on issues that affect veterans.”