Candidates vie for veterans' vote in November - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Candidates vie for veterans' vote in November


Many voters will have military-related issues in mind as they head to the polls in November. That's especially true for the men and women who have served our country.

For the most part, what matters to veterans matters to the rest of us, like jobs, the economy, or education. But those who have served our country have a unique set of needs -- like medical care for vets with PTSD. And they're looking for lawmakers to make veterans issues a priority, whether that's in Des Moines or Washington.

Two years ago, the Independence High School gym filled with students and teachers ready to send off one of their own.

"I had a speech I wanted to say. But I couldn't talk. It was just too emotional, it was just too much," said SPC Will Overstreet at the time.

Overstreet went on to serve in Afghanistan with the largest deployment of Iowa National Guard Troops since World War II. When the men and women returned home, they faced a new set of challenges.

"Jobs, the GI bill, health benefits, PTSD and suicide prevention. Things like that. I've lost a friend recently, I know other friends who are going through Post Traumatic Stress and things like that," said Overstreet.

Local politicians realize they need to not only listen to the issues facing veterans, but also act on them.

"We have been incredibly progressive and forward thinking when it comes to the laws that we pass when it comes to veterans. We have an injured veterans program, that when they are injured overseas, we provide travel money for the family," said Sen. Jeff Danielson, (D) Cedar Falls.

"30 years ago, the GI bill was a big deal. I don't think we're using it much now. There's not quite as much emphasis on getting that education. And therefore jobs are probably not as readily available," said James Kenyon, (R) District 59 Candidate.

In a perfect world, veterans issues would be non-partisan. But the hope is, lawmakers will remember what the service members went through overseas, and back home, when making a decision which will impact current and former service members.

"Really, we just want to be taken care of when we get home. We don't ask for a whole lot more than that," said Overstreet.

Overstreet believes most veterans are active voters. However, they are not always active in the political scene. He'd like to see more young vets, in particular, reaching out to legislators and speaking out about these important issues.

Newly-formed organizations like "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America" are working to educate legislators about veterans issues. That group alone has more than 200,000 members.

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