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News Analysis: October 11, 2007

posted on October 12, 2007 at 1:01 PM

Economic opportunity is a hot topic this week. Wind power is fueling not only a boom in energy production but manufacturing in several communities. But other Iowa communities are feeling the emotional, civic, and economic impact of the Iraq war, and Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa is here to explain.

Mundt: Now, Kay, you did a story this week that is having an impact on some Iowa’s soldiers.

Henderson: Right. This is one of those stories that begin with “Can you believe this?” A group of Iowa and Minnesota National Guard members were on active duty for two years. They arrived in Iraq in March of 2006. They came home to some heroes welcome in July of this year. They were in Iraq longer than any other unit in the regular Army, the regular Marines, the Navy, and any other Reserve or Guard unit. When the military went to write military orders for these soldiers, half of them were 730-day active duty engagements. The rest of them were somewhat less than that. The reason this is important is because if you're 730 days, you qualify for the full benefits of the Montgomery G.I. Bill. Now, a lot of people have heard of the G.I. Bill. It was really important in this country when World War II veterans came home. They went to school on the G.I. Bill. It sort of fueled this country's technological advantage in the 1960s and 70s.

Mundt: It was money for college.

Henderson: Correct. And money for home loans as well when those veterans came home. These veterans and coming home and because they have fewer days listed on their military orders, they qualify for fewer benefits. In fact, if they leave the military altogether, they cannot avail themselves of this college help.

Mundt: Now, couldn't this just be corrected?

Henderson: It can. In fact, there are two Iowa Congressmen, Congressman Tom Lathem and Congressman Bruce Braley, who are pressuring the Secretary of the Army to rectify the situation. There’s a senator in Minnesota who is also pressuring on this. It appears that the Secretary of the Army is going to review this and may indeed change those orders so that all of those soldiers who came home who served for two years on active duty will indeed qualify.

Mundt: There’s not been a lot of coverage of this story, but it sound like this is something to follow.

Henderson: Exactly.

Mundt: Wind power. There have been a couple of important announcements this week. Probably the biggest one and certainly big news for people in Keokuk is the new plant there.

Henderson: Exactly. When you say huge news, it's also huge things they're going to be making in Keokuk. They’re going to be making the towers on which those wind turbine blades run. The towers are 260 feet tall. They’re 80 tons. They’re absolutely mammoth. And the company that's locating in Keokuk, as you said, may eventually employ 350 people. That’s a lot of people. That’s really great news for Keokuk because that is the community in Iowa that's situated in a county that has the highest unemployment rate among Iowa’s 99 counties.

Mundt: And those are good jobs -- good paying jobs?

Henderson: They're great paying jobs. They pay abnormally high wages, I think something in the range of $24 on average, which is incredibly well paid. There will be high-skilled jobs as well. And coincidentally, this is also linked to the development of the port there on the Mississippi River. So it's huge news for Keokuk.

Mundt: Kay, thank you very much. Kay Henderson of “Radio Iowa.”

Tags: alternative energy Iowa Iraq war news veterans wind power

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