Remembering Iowa’s fallen

Hamilton County Veteran Affairs hosted its annual expo open house on Thursday, and also hosted a memorial wall tribute to fallen soldiers.

Debbie and Ken Rice, of Davenport, are part of a group called the Mississippi Valley Patriots. The group began in the summer of 2004, about a year after the beginning of the Iraq war. The Rices said they’ve shown the display featured at the HC Veteran Affairs office about a dozen times.

LuAnn Jackson, assistant of the Veterans Affairs commission, said she saw a similar display from the group while in Carroll.

“I just thought it was really awesome and would be something great to have at our expo,” Jackson said. “There might be two of the soldiers on that wall that (Ken Rice) doesn’t know a lot about. Every other one, he’s been to their funerals, he’s talked with their parents, he’s talked with their spouses, he has stories on just about every one of them.”

The memorial wall display features every soldier from Iowa who perished in the Afghani and Iraqi conflicts. The Rices don’t charge to show the memorial, but just ask that they be able to have a donation box available. Debbie Rice said it’s their way of honoring those who gave their lives.

“What we hear from the parents of these soldiers is that they don’t want their child forgotten,” Debbie Rice said. “If you can remember just one person from this memorial, and learn their story, then they won’t be.”

For many veterans, the care available to them can also be forgotten. Jackson said Thursday’s expo turnout of over 40 veterans shows that many people in town don’t know about their services. She explained that the local Veteran Affairs office handles with the paperwork and files claims for veterans seeking assistance.

The expo invites representatives from groups like the hospital in Des Moines, the outreach clinic in Fort Dodge, and mental healthcare systems. Jackson said those groups handle things like working with the pension center, and can check the status of a claim after it has been filed.

“The expo itself is set up for all the veterans in the county,” Jackson said. “The veterans families are invited to come and get questions answered as well for things like getting someone into a nursing or vets home, if they can get a disability claim set for something that happened in the service and different things through the health system so they can get healthcare through the VA.”

She noted that widows of spouses might also be eligible for assistance. Bill Peterson, director of the local Veterans Affairs Commission, said his office has many ways to help veterans, and any that don’t know what the office could offer them should inquire. The office, located at 500 Fairmeadow Dr., is open Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is open Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The office can also be reached by phone at 832-9595.