More than thirty of the 50 members of the Iowa Senate have sent the U.S. Defense Secretary a letter ( Download PDF ) asking that Iowa Guard troops who’ve had their tours of duty extended in Iraq get higher "hardship" pay. Senator Tom Hancock, a Democrat from Epworth, says more than six-hundred soldiers in the Iowa National Guard’s 1st Battalion were scheduled to return home by April, but because of the proposed "surge" they’ll be staying perhaps through July.
Hancock says he’s heard the soldiers are "bummed out" and feel "let down." Hancock says an extension of their service is a hardship for the soldiers and their families and their pay should be increased to compensate for that. "We don’t feel they are being treated as fairly as they should," Hancock says. Both Democrats and Republicans signed the letter, and Hancock says that kind of bipartisanship is happening in other states, too, where legislators have sent similar letters.
"So some other states have the same heartburn as we do," Hancock says. "I think it’s our duty to stick up for our troops." Hancock suffered a football injury in high school and flunked the physical for service in the Vietnam era. Senator Dave Mulder, a Republican from Sioux Center, says he signed the letter for a couple of reasons.
"One is I’ve always felt guilty because I flunked the physical and couldn’t go into the service and so therefore since I couldn’t serve my country in that way I’ve always held in such high regard those that do," Mulder says. "Whenever I have any chance to honor them, to provide them with things that maybe they have difficulty getting, I’m going to support them in any way I can." The other reason Mulder signed that letter is because three of his former high school students were sent to Iraq.
"One of ’em got killed. Another one was seriously injured and the other one came home perfectly whole," Mulder says. "It hits home." Active duty military personnel who spent more than one year in Iraq receive an extra bonus of one-thousand dollars for every month they remain in Iraq. The state senators are asking that the same payment be made to guard troops who must stay longer in Iraq.
One of the Iowa Guard soldiers who has had his stay in Iraq extended is Ray Zirkelbach of Monticello, who is also a member of the Iowa House of Representatives. Here is a list of the other state senators who signed the letter: Amanda Ragan, Becky Schmitz, Bill Heckroth, Brian Schoenjahn, Daryl Beall, Dennis Black, Dick Dearden, Joe Seng, Thurman Gaskill, Frank Wood, Gene Fraise, Herman C. Quirmbach, Hubert Houser, Jack Hatch, Jeff Danielson, Joe Bolkcom, Jack Kibbie, John Putney, Keith A. Kreiman, Larry McKibben, Mark Zieman, Mary Lundby, Matt McCoy, Mike Connolly, Mike Gronstal, Paul McKinley, Rich Olive, Rob Hogg, Bob Dvorsky, Roger Stewart, Ron Wieck, Staci Appel, Steve Warnstadt, Tom Courtney, Tom Hancock, Tom Rielly, Wally Horn and Bill Dotzler.