Military & Veterans News
Gov. Branstad orders flags at half-staff to honor Sgt. Michael E. Ristau PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Office of the Governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 08:57

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Branstad is ordering all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, until 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 for Sgt. Michael E. Ristau., 25, originally of Cascade.

Sgt. Ristau was killed in Afghanistan, while serving on active duty in the U.S. Army, on July 13, when the vehicle he was riding in was attacked by an improvised explosive device.

The governor’s directive applies to all U.S. and state flags under the control of the state. H.R. 692, signed in 2007, requires federal government agencies in the state to comply with the governor’s executive order that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff in the event of the death of a member of the Armed Forces.

Flags will be at half-staff on the state Capitol building and on flag displays in the Capitol complex, and upon all public buildings, grounds, and facilities throughout the state. Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect.

Ristau is survived by his wife, Elizabeth L. and sons, Hyle Ristau, of Tacoma, Wash., and Bradley Ristau, of Tennessee; his parents, Randy L. and Suzanne M. Ristau, of Cascade; sister Halie Ristau of Cascade; and brothers Christopher Powers of Dubuque, Iowa and Jesse Carrier of Bolivar, Mo.; grandmother Gertrude Meyer of East Dubuque, Ill. and grandfather Vernon Thomas, of Dubuque; father-in-law and mother-in-law Dan and Karen Lemley of Tacoma; and brother-in-law Collin Lemley of Tacoma.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. at the Cascade City Park.

The U.S. flag flown over the state Capitol on the day of the funeral will be presented to Sgt. Ristau’s family at a later date, along with a proclamation honoring him.


Veterans and the Minimum Wage PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Jon Soltz   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 08:48

Recently, Wisconsin Representative Sean Duffy ran away from a veteran, who was trying to ask him about what he was going to do about raising the minimum wage.  As a veteran, I was dismayed that a United States Congressman would try to avoid someone who served our nation.  But then I began to consider the issue of the minimum wage, and why a veteran like this one would be so concerned about seeing it raised.

When I volunteered to serve in the armed forces, I was motivated by a sense of pride in America’s status as a land of opportunity. Too many of the soldiers I served with have come home to economic hardships unbefitting their service and our country.  Vets are not immune from the downward trend toward low wages and low incomes in our economy and many I know struggle just to meet their basic needs.

We believe, as a country, that anyone who puts in a full day’s work should be able to live off their earnings: This is one reason why we established a federal minimum wage over 70 years ago. But July 24 marked the three year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was increased. Over the past three years, the minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 per hour – just over $15,000 per year for full-time work – even as the cost of basic expenses like food or gasoline has continued to rise.

Thankfully, Congress has now started to act in order to ensure that low-wage workers do not have to endure another year of stagnant pay. Just a matter of days after the three-year anniversary passed on July 24, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, which would raise the minimum wage to $9.80 by 2014, increase the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the full minimum wage, and index both to automatically increase with the rising cost of living.

If these bills were passed, over 28 million low-wage workers in the U.S. would see their paychecks rise by over $5,000 per year. The workers who would benefit from this bill are people that many of us meet every day – checkout clerks, restaurant servers, and homecare workers – almost 90 percent of whom are adults over the age of twenty.

While raising the minimum wage would provide much-needed support to these workers, it would also help support the economy as a whole by boosting consumer spending and giving businesses the customer base that they need in order to start hiring again. If we acted now to pass this proposed increase in the minimum wage, we could prop up our frustratingly sluggish economic recovery by generating more than $25 billion in GDP and creating the equivalent of over 100,000 jobs.

We cannot sit by while the paychecks of America’s lowest-paid workers continued continue to get squeezed by rising prices. Raising the minimum wage is a modest step that we could take right now to ensure that real opportunity is available for all who work for it.

For veterans, when you consider that the highest unemployment rate among veterans is in the youngest age bracket (18-24), minimum wage jobs are often what these young returning troops rely on, while they gain the skills and education necessary on which they can build a career.

But if we don’t pass an increase in the minimum wage, we have little reason to expect the economy to provide the same boost on its own. Low-wage jobs, primarily in the service sector, have already accounted for a majority of all job growth in the wake of the recession. Meanwhile, the largest employers of low-wage workers – retail giants like Wal-Mart and fast-food chains like McDonalds – are actually earning stronger profits today than they were before the recession, even as they continue to pay their employees the minimum wage.

The promise of opportunity in America is threatened today by a job market that does not allow many to work their way out of poverty. As a veteran I have seen men and women in uniform make incredible sacrifices to protect this promise of opportunity.  It’s time for Congress to do its part as well by raising the minimum wage, and stop running away from the issue in more ways than one.


Transportation Units Make Long Haul to Bring Equipment Back to Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 08:39

CAMP RIPLEY, MINN. (07/31/2012)(readMedia)-- As the Illinois National Guard's 2012 eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) came to a close July 28 at Camp Ripley Minn., drawdown operations were in full swing July 24 to 30 as transportation units hauled cargo back to Illinois.

Since early July more than 3,000 Illinois National Guardsmen trained in Camp Ripley as part of XCTC.

The 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago, took the lead with the redeployment of troops to home station.

The 1144th Transportation Battalion (Motor Transport) conducted line-haul missions taking cargo back to Illinois. The 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside and 1744th Transportation Company in Crestwood, made the 1,000-mile round trip moving containers, vehicles and equipment between to the two states. The 1144th conducted more than 130 missions traveling roughly 364,000 miles and moving nearly 1.52 million pounds of cargo.

"In every stage of this mission, our sustainment operations have played a critical role," said Lt. Col. Tracey Collins of Naperville, 108th deputy commanding officer. "Now at the end of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's training, the 108th is still providing support as we get our Soldiers and our equipment home."

Collins said the transportation units in the 1144th have been the key players behind the scenes moving both the 108th and 33rd cargo.

"Whatever needs to be hauled, we'll have it on the road and back to the unit's home station," said Collins.

The 1144th and its subordinate units moved equipment to Camp Ripley before the arrival of the 33rd at Camp Ripley and moved it back to Illinois while the 33rd travelled home.

"There's a lot of moving pieces out there. Almost every day we've had Soldiers from the 1244th and our sister company, the 1744th, on the road between Illinois and Minnesota," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Drabek with the 1244th. "They're out on the road, driving for hours to make sure this equipment gets home quickly and safely."

Drabek said this mission has allowed the drivers to gain experience behind the wheel in a real world setting.

"Our Soldiers are always mission first," said Drabek. "These guys are always ready for anything that may come down the road and they're always willing to help their fellow Soldiers."

U.S Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs/ Spc. Edgardo Serrano of Chicago with the 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside, chains down a Howitzer cannon July 24 at Camp Ripley, Minn. The 1244th and 1744th Transportation Companies made the 1,000-mile round trip moving containers, vehicles and equipment between Minnesota and Illinois.

U.S Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs/ Sgt. Sonia Rivas of Garden Prairie and Pfc. Alexis Millan of Hanover Park both with the 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside, chain down a Howitzer cannon July 24 at Camp Ripley, Minn. The 1244th and 1744th Transportation Companies made the 1,000-mile round trip moving containers, vehicles and equipment between Minnesota and Illinois.

U.S Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs/ Soldiers with the 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside, chain down a Howitzer cannon July 24 at Camp Ripley, Minn. The 1244th and 1744th Transportation Companies made the 1,000-mile round trip moving containers, vehicles and equipment between Minnesota and Illinois.


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Loebsack Continues Focus on Improving Veterans Services PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Joe Hand   
Thursday, 26 July 2012 15:35

Takes Part in Hearing with Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack today continued his work to improve Veterans’ services and benefits.  As the only member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) from Iowa, Loebsack took part in a joint hearing with the House Veterans Affairs Committee on how to ease the transition from military service to civilian life.  Earlier this month, Loebsack held a series of forums for Iowa Veterans across Eastern and Southeastern Iowa.  He then personally met with senior VA leadership to bring Iowa Veterans’ concerns and idea directly to them.

“Our Veterans have proudly served our nation and it is our responsibility to support and care for them when they return home. I have helped Iowa Veterans secure VA benefits, and there is no greater honor I have than working on their behalf.  However, no Veteran should have to fight to find a job here at home or to receive the Veterans benefits they deserve.  Our nation has a moral responsibility to ensure they receive the care and benefits they deserve and to give them the tools they need to secure good job and successfully transition to civilian life.

“Today’s hearing focused on an issue of concern to countless Iowa Veterans I have met.  There must be greater coordination between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help Veterans successfully transition to civilian life.  As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will continue to stand up for our Veterans and work to ensure they receive the support, benefits, and care they need and deserve.”

Loebsack has championed numerous initiatives to assist Veterans transitioning to civilian life, including introducing and successfully enacting legislation to increase Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for members of the National Guard.  This legislation resulted in increased benefits for over 1,300 Iowans and over 84,000 members of the National Guard nationwide.  Loebsack also championed the VOW to Hire Veterans Act, which was signed into law last year. This bill provides businesses with tax credits of $2,400-$9,600 to hire veterans and extends the Transition Assistance Program, including resume writing workshops and career counseling, to all servicemembers leaving the military.  It also expanded training opportunities for older veterans by providing up to a year of additional Montgomery GI benefits, and provided disabled veterans with up to a year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.  Loebsack also introduced and secured enactment of an initiative to increase access to mental health care for members of the National Guard.


This Amazing Story of Heroism May Bring You to Tears PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Move America Forward   
Monday, 23 July 2012 13:52

The following story comes to us from blogger Kevin Hanrahan who blogs about our troops and military dogs. It is a true story witnessed by his friend "Steve" in Afghanistan

The 1st Cavalry Division Chaplain went to the hospital here in Afghanistan tonight with one of the Deputy Commanding Generals to pin a Purple Heart on a Soldier that was wounded  this morning by an IED. The Chaplain was telling me that this young hero was severely injured, he was missing his left hand, one side of his face was completely torn apart, and his body was peppered with shrapnel.

Our General pinned the purple heart on the Soldier, then asked him if there was anything he could do for him before he was flown out of theater. The Soldier could not speak so he moved his one remaining hand signaling for a pen. He was handed a pen and paper, then wrote a note to our General.

The Chaplin was telling me he thought it was going to be a request to call his wife or pass a message back home that he was going to be OK, when he looked at the note he saw a list of supplies his Soldiers needed that were still out on the battlefield fighting. Our Chaplin told me that it was the first time he saw our General cry during a Purple Heart ceremony.

This HERO is the reason why I have left my family for five of the past 11 years. There is no higher honor then to stand with these men and women in combat.
- Facebook wall of U.S. Soldier "Steve"
1st Cavalry Division, Deployed to Afghanistan

This story not only speaks to the selfless nature of our troops but it also underscores a problem in Afghanistan that we're trying to combat - the lack of supplies.

We all know that Afghanistan is a tough place to get supplies in and out of, especially for the troops serving in the mountains or the remote areas on the border with Pakistan.

We're working hard to get our packages to the troops who need them the most - the ones that are on the front lines, not on a well-supplied base or air field.

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