State Representative McKinley Bailey is a former Army intelligence officer who did tours of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He says combat soldiers are facing big problems as they transition back to civilian life.
"One of the things that they teach you when you’re in the military, they kind of make you think that you’re invincible and so you come home with that mentality and then it turns out that there are issues, but you’re invincible, you know. There’s nothing wrong with you," Bailey says. "And so instead of maybe going and getting that psychological help that you need you turn to drugs or alcohol and that’s a real issue, I think."
Bailey believes part-time soldiers in the Guard and the Reserve have a rougher transition than he did as a full-time soldier. He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne.
"You’re always wondering where your rifle’s at and so on and so forth because for eight months it never leaves your side and so there’s issues like that, but your friends — you know, the soldiers that you serve with — become like family and when you come home, they’re still there," Bailey says. "For a reservist when they come home — they get home, they get off the plane, they demobilize and then their support network is gone overnight, all these people who have become like brothers and sisters to them are no longer there and that makes the transition all that more difficult."
Bailey says when he returned after two tours overseas, he felt as if government at all levels was failing him and other returning veterans. "I went to the University of Iowa shortly after I got out of the military and I started the University of Iowa Veterans Association there," Bailey says. "…There were a lot of programs, a lot of assistance available to veterans, but they had no idea where it was or how to connect with it."
As a rookie lawmaker, Bailey has worked on legislation that would put a veteran’s service officer in every county for at least 20 hours per week in hopes of helping combat vets who live in rural areas get better access to the services they’re due. "We have veterans service officers in most of the counties in Iowa. A lot of them are there for just four or six hours a week and they aren’t very well trained. Some of them are," Bailey says. "We have some veterans service officers in this state who are doing just amazing things and we have others that just aren’t up to par."
The plan Bailey’s advocating would see the state give each of Iowa’s 99 counties $10,000 to train those veterans affairs officers. Bailey, a Democrat from Webster City, argues county and state governments will end up saving money, as these county officials will be able to line up more of the federal benefits to which the returning veterans are entitled.
Bailey made his comments during an appearance on "The Iowa Journal" on Iowa Public Television.