Governor Terry Branstad says he’s proud of the way Iowans have responded to help the families of Iowa National Guard soldiers who’ve been killed in action. Branstad attended a Council Bluffs soldier’s funeral on Friday and was in Waverly on Saturday for another Guardsman who was killed in Afghanistan.

“The honor guard of the motorcycle people – I think there were over 500 of them in Waverly,” Branstad said today. “There were a number also in Council Bluffs and thousands of people lining the streets with flags and handmade signs, showing their support, their respect, their appreciation.”

Thirty-two-year-old Staff Sergeant James Justice of Grimes was killed Saturday during a mission to rescue the pilots of a downed helicopter in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. He is the third National Guard soldier to be killed this month in Afghanistan, part of a massive deployment of Iowa Guard soldiers, the largest since World War II.

Governor Branstad says the Guard has suffered “significant losses” over the past month and it has been “very moving” to see the outpouring of sympathy from Iowans. “It’s something that I think we can be proud of that our state is standing behind and supporting the people that are making such a huge sacrifice in defense of our freedom,” Branstad says.

Branstad served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam Era, as a stateside military policeman.