Governor Branstad says he’ll sign a bill that provides extra money to the Iowa National Guard to cover unexpected tuition costs. “That will be the first bill of this session,” Branstad says. “I think it is appropriate that the first bill is one that shows our support for the National Guard and for the significant sacrifice that so many families have made in service to our country in this critical time.”

The Iowa National Guard offers grants to soldiers who enroll in college, but the budget was set before about three-thousand Iowa Guard soldiers returned from Afghanistan this past summer, and more of them enrolled in college than officials had expected.

In December, Guard officials announced the grants to each of the 1,400 soldiers who get the tuition assistance would be cut by $1,300. The bill Branstad intends to sign provides an extra $1.3-million to cover that cut.

“We can afford this supplemental appropriation and still have a budget that is balanced into the out-going years. That is a tribute to the touch decisions that were made last year,” Branstad says. “…This $1.3 million…will not bust the budget.”

Branstad was among the hundreds who attended Sunday’s funeral for the Iowa native who died earlier this month in Afghanistan. “I thought the community of Centerville and the hundreds of people that were in attendance — the Marines, the veterans organizations, the honor guard and everybody, I think did an excellent job of showing their respect, their appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice that Master Sergeant Riddick made on behalf of our country.”

Two-thousand American flags lined the streets of Centerville to honor 40-year-old Marine Travis Riddick, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.