The Iowa Legislature today honored one of its own who just returned from active duty in Iraq. Republican State Senator Chuck Larson, Junior, of Cedar Rapids and his Army Reserve unit were sent to Iraq in February of last year. “Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot tell how good it feels to be back with you and to be breathing the fresh air of freedom that we have in this great state,” Larson told his Senate colleagues. Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a republican from Dows, paid tribute to Larson and the 53 other soldiers in the unit today during a statehouse ceremony. “We thank your families for their continued support and most importantly, we thank you for what you have done to protect our freedoms,” Iverson said. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, joined Iverson in welcoming the troops home. “Thank you for your service to our country. We rejoice in your safe return,” Gronstal said. “Our hearts and prayers are both with the folks (who) are still there and we pray for their safe return and our prayers are with the families (who) have lost loved ones.” Larson’s unit — an engineering group — built 12 schools, three city halls and two water treatment facilities and renovated an electrical grid. The unit’s commander, Colonel Gary Braddock, says it was a “profound” experience. “We’ve electrified villages. We’ve built women’s clinics, veterinary clinics. We’ve made it happen, but most importantly, through your support, you have aided us in allowing them to give them an opportunity to seek a destiny,” Braddock says. “We’ve done a lot. There’s a lot to do. Stay the course; don’t give up the ship because there’s a lot left to do besides this.” State Senator Larson is an attorney in the Army Reserve — a JAG — and he will return to his job as a legislator next week. “Senator Larson, on Monday you will be expected to wear a tie,” Senator Gronstal joked. Senate rules forbid men to enter the Senate if they are not wearing a tie and a suit jacket. Larson was wearing his battle fatigues today, as were the other soldiers who were honored.
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