Colleagues of Congressman Leonard Boswell held a tribute to him today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Hadn’t planned on this all coming to this kind of a closure, but it’s caused me to reflect back over life and I feel very blessed,” Boswell said.

Boswell’s 16-year tenure in the U.S. House is coming to an end, as he lost his bid for reelection.

“I have a regret: I’m sorry my mother couldn’t have heard this discussion today,” Boswell said, drawing laughter from the other members of congress who were on the House floor.

Boswell, a Democrat, will celebrate his 79th birthday on January 10th.

“I started out in a tenant farmhouse,” Boswell said. “…But look what I’ve gotten to do…when we talk about the American dream and the opportunities that exist in America.”

Boswell was drafted at the age of 22 and served in the Army for 20 years. Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo said Boswell is “too modest” to talk about the two Distinguished Flying Crosses he was awarded for flying helicopter rescue missions in Vietnam.

“Leonard has always been a strong advocate for military families,” Braley said. “He has a lot of proud achievements in this body, but Leonard to me your proudest moment was when the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act was passed in the House, passed in the Senate and signed into law by the president.”

Congressman Steve King of Kiron said Boswell had a “noble and brave” career in the military.

“Everybody that he served with didn’t come back, but more people came back because of Leonard Boswell and I know that,” King said. “I heard some of those stories because I pulled a few of them out, but it’s not something that’s he’s brought out front. It’s not something that he’s worn on his sleeve. It’s something within the character of the man that sits here with us today.”

Each member of Iowa’s delegation in the House paid tribute to Boswell. Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa City praised Boswell’s “distinguished” record of public service.

“We talk about a lot of us being from Iowa, but I often refer to Leonard Boswell as being ‘of Iowa,'” Loebsack said. “He’s an Iowan through and through in every possible way.”

Congressman Braley mentioned the scuffle Boswell had in the summer of 2011 with an armed intruder in his Davis City farmhouse.

“You shrug it off Leonard, but everyone who knows you knows that that outcome of that horrible moment was inevitable,” Braley said, “that truth and justice were going to triumph because you were the one who was there at the right time and the right place.”

Other congressmen from other states offered praise to Boswell during the 40-minute tribute. Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer credited Boswell for bringing a “greater degree of civility” to the House.

“He is a ‘salt of the Earth’ human being,” Hoyer said. “He is someone that the American people, if they knew personally, would say is the kind of person they would want representing them in the congress of the United States.”

Congressman Tom Latham of Clive, the Republican who beat Boswell in November, organized today’s tribute.

“His work on behalf of his constituents has exemplified what Iowans expect of their representatives in congress — someone who is approachable, thoughtful and hard-working,” Latham said.

Former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle was on hand for the tribute as well. Latham read aloud a few letters from Iowans on the House floor today. Messages that are emailed today to [email protected] will be made part of the official congressional record of the event. 

AUDIO of 41-minute tribute to Congressman Leonard Boswell