As Radio Iowa reviews the top news and sports stories of 2013, here is our report on the year’s top political stories.
Audio: Military year in review 3:00
Here are some of the top military stories of 2013 in Iowa:
An Iowa native who was one of the country’s most decorated military veterans died in August of this year at the age of 88. Colonel Bud Day was 42 when he was captured by the Vietnamese and held prisoner for more than five years. Arizona Senator John McCain — one of the other P-O-Ws in the “Hanoi Hilton” — credits Day with keeping the American soldiers inside that prison in line. Bud Day was awarded the Medal of Honor for enduring the brutality in that prison without divulging sensitive military information to the Vietnamese. Day earned more than 70 medals for his military service.
A soldier from Estherville was one of five who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on March 11th outside Kandahar City. Staff Sargent Steven Blass was remembered as someone who loved the Army and loved flying Blackhawk helicopters. His commanding officer said Blass was a model soldier, leader and friend who was devoted to his family. After the funeral, thousands of flag-waving Estherville area residents lined the route of the funeral procession to pay their final respects to Blass.
The Iowa Air National Guard fighter wing based in Des Moines saw 72 years of manned flight come to an end this fall as the 132nd switched fome F-16 fighters to the unmanned M-Q-9 reapers. Since 1941, the air wing had gone to war in nearly a dozen different aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Trenton Twedt commands the maintenance squadron, and helped organize a ceremony marking the end of the mission for the F-16’s. “I think the big thing is we know that manned flight is coming to an end here at the 132nd Fighter Wing and let’s just celebrate the end of flying and move this celebration right into the new mission and kick it off with a good jump start,” Twedt said.
One thousand members of the 132nd Air Wing, former aviators and V-I-Ps gathered in the unit’s massive hanger at the Des Moines Airport for the ceremony. Some of the F-16’s were flown out of the Des Moines base to New Jersey.
The soldiers are with the 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion based in Waterloo were welcomed home in June from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
A group of Iowa National Guard soldiers were sent off to an assignment overseas in November, while another group was welcomed home from a year-long deployment. Guard spokesman, Colonel Greg Hapgood, says 40 soldiers with 248th Aviation Support Battalion headquartered in Boone left for a year of duty in Kosovo. Some 100 soldiers from the 833rd Engineer Company returned from year in Afghanistan clearing improvised explosive devices. The return of the 833rd marks a milestone for the Iowa National Guard, with no soldiers left on active duty in Afghanistan.
The governor launched a new “Home Base Iowa” initiative in November to try and lure soldiers leaving the military to Iowa. Two Vietnam veterans — former Congressman Leonard Boswell and Casey’s General Stores CEO Bob Myers — are serving as co-chairs of the effort. Boswell says linking these new veterans with employment is key. Myers says with a reduction in overseas combat assignments and deep cuts in the military budget, more and more soldiers will be entering the civilian workforce.
The Iowa-based Hy-Vee grocery store chain launched an eight-state midwest effort to raise funds for three organizations that help veterans. The Hy-Vee Homefront Initiative announced matches donations up to $100,000 for Operation First Response, Hope for the Warriors and the Puppy Jake Foundation. P.J. Sesker, chair of Operation First Response came up with the idea for the program. Hy-Vee plans to have other special promotions around holidays to raise the funds. For more, go to Hy-Vee’s website and look for the Homefront logo. Or go to RadioIowa.com.