28 April 2010

News from Iowa ... and Iraq

Lots of news about and around the Iowa National Guard this week. And, I'm pleased to report, the Des Moines Register is mostly doing us citizen-soldiers proud this news cycle:


Sure, quoting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa Gov.) Tom Vilsack regarding the upcoming mission of an Iowa National Guard Argicultural Development Team (A.D.T.) was a little well, corny: "We're not trying to turn Afghanistan into an Iowa cornfield," Vilsack said. "The emphasis will be on traditional agriculture." But hey--it's not like marketing Iowa pork is going to "play in Peoria." Or Paktika. Or Paktiya. Or ... OK, I'm done with the provincial names now.

Vilsack observed that the 60-soldier team from Iowa will be be working to wean Afghan farmers away from growing poppies--which are used in opium production--and toward growing wheat, pomegranates, and saffron. (I don't know about you, but I'm just wild about saffron.)


University of Iowa student and fellow citizen-soldier Dan Tallon, 21, a political-science major who is slated to deploy to Afghanistan later this summer, recently told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that he plans to petition Iowa lawmakers to avoid enforcing the Department of Defense's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The policy is currently under DOD review; President Obama called for its revocation in his 2010 State of the Union speech.

Tallon is apparently not gay (not that he'd be able to tell, under the "D.A.D.T." policy--and not that it would matter), but has family members who are.

I've served with soldiers that I've known to be gay, and no doubt, there are more that I don't know about. Personally, I figure that if I don't want to have other people poking around in my personal business, I shouldn't go poking around in theirs.

I don't know Tallon, and I don't know his politics. But I'm proud of any citizen who raises his or her hand and pledges to defend the Constitution, prouder still of a college student who has the courage to stand up for what he believes is right, and proudest of all that he is an Iowan and a fellow citizen-soldier. To paraphrase a little faux-Voltaire: "I may not approve of what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it."


Iowa Gov. Chet Culver signed four bills into law Tues., April 22. According to the Des Moines Register, these were:
Senate File 2226, which will allow a parent is in the U.S. Armed Forces to ask the court to transfer his or her child-visitation rights to another relative while the military member is deployed.

Senate File 2274, extending college benefits for military members and their families living in Iowa or on the Rock Island Arsenal.

Senate Files 2318 and 229, which are intended to improve military readiness by preventing utility companies from shutting off gas or electricity at an activated service member’s home, allow Iowans on active duty suspend payments on their professional liability insurance coverage.


In an April 27 essay on the Des Moines Register's opinion pages, Iowa Army National Guard Capt. Tim Mills reflects on April as the "Month of the Military Child." Mills is commander of a public affairs unit currently downrange in Iraq:
When a soldier deploys it affects the whole family. I don't know the total "cost" this deployment will have on my family. Society recognizes there is a cost and many people are quick to shed a tear, shake a hand or share a smile in honor of my service. I'm grateful and will always return a warm thanks. What goes overlooked is that my wife and kids sacrifice the same valuable resource I do--time.

April is the month of the military child, and I want to recognize my kids. I want my kids to know that I realize they've sacrificed a large portion of their young lives to support the work of maintaining America's freedom--and I'm grateful. I want them to know that even though they stand shorter than most men and women in uniform, their love for their country is measured by their heart not their height.

In my absence, my wife continues our noble responsibility of raising four grateful, God-fearing Americans. She teaches them to honor their father's service - a lesson my World War II veteran grandfather taught my mother, which my mother instilled in me and that I hope my children carry on.
During the few days left in April, my hope is that Americans will recognize military children and their support for soldiers.
My kids represent four of them, and I am extremely grateful for their sacrifice.
Amen to that!

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