Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Orr (left), adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard and a former East Greene teacher and coach, reconnected Thursday with Frank Adamson (right), a 1988 East Greene grad, at Gov. Terry Branstad's Home Base Iowa event in Jefferson. Adamson, who grew up in Dana and served in the Iowa Army National Guard for 24 years, deploying in 2003 to Kosovo, now works at AAI/Spalding, the site of Branstad's event.

Veterans make showing for Branstad and Home Base Iowa


When Don Fay came home to Churdan from the Korean War, he came back with no job prospects.

But 60 years ago, it hardly mattered.

“Back then,” Fay, now 80, said, “you could always get a job. The farmers would always hire you.”

Fay, who spent three years in Korea aboard the USS Mispillion, a decorated oil tanker, was among a host of local veterans Thursday morning who attended Gov. Terry Branstad’s announcement designating Greene County as his first Home Base Iowa community.

Home Base Iowa is Branstad’s ambitious initiative to lure returning military veterans to Iowa and connect them with jobs, housing and educational opportunities.

It’s largely a reflection that, unlike Fay’s era, times have changed.

“So many of them have to have a four-year college education to do just about any job,” Fay said. “Me, I don’t even know how to turn a computer on.”

Fay and the others in attendance — whose service spanned all eras — came to Branstad’s announcement at AAI/Spalding in Jefferson as a show of moral support for a new generation of veterans.

“They need all the help they can get,” said Duane Towers,  of Churdan, a veteran of the Navy’s submarine service during Korea.

Senior Airman Joe Yoder, a 25-year-old veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Iowa Air National Guard’s Des Moines-based 132nd Fighter Wing, was appreciative of their showing.

“It means a lot to me to see Vietnam War veterans come out and support us,” Yoder said. “It’s really humbling as a younger veteran.”

Yoder, son of Home State Bank Executive Vice President Ben Yoder, isn’t quite ready himself to transition into civilian life.

Yoder joined the Guard in high school, but this summer leaves to join the Air Force’s elite pararescue force.

“I don’t feel I’ve served all the way yet,” he said. “It’d be selfish for me not to.”

When he finally does leave uniform, though, it’s hoped that Home Base Iowa communities will be there to extend a hand.

No other state has a program similar to Home Base Iowa — which offers incentives to veterans settling in Iowa — according to Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Orr, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard and a former East Greene teacher and coach.

Vietnam veterans, in particular, like Don Ihnken, of Jefferson, weren’t so fortunate when they resumed civilian life.

“We were spit on, basically,” Ihnken said Thursday. “They had no time for us.”

Ihnken, a Navy veteran, finds Branstad’s initiative to be heartwarming.

“I think it’s great. I hope it goes over,” he said.

But the idea of luring young veterans to Iowa also appeals to Ihnken as a way to save veterans’ service organizations throughout the state.

Ihnken is commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9599 in Jefferson.

“We need the younger generation to stay alive,” he said. “Without them, we’re going to die.”

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