Don’t forget those who serve

Don't forget those who serve by the Plain Talk Gov. Mike Rounds was pressed for time last Friday.

He met for nearly three hours with local newspaper representatives at the Al Neuharth Media Center on the USD campus, answering questions on a broad range of issues including education funding, industrial development, Missouri River management and the upcoming legislative session.

An aide was prodding him. They soon would be running late if they didn�t leave Vermillion for their next stop.

Rounds couldn�t tear himself away, however. One issue � a topic he feels is very important � hadn�t yet been discussed.

South Dakota still has over 900 National Guard soldiers fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

�My best estimate is that we have over 400 reserve military individuals that are still deployed,� the governor said. �I have no idea how many of our citizens are full-time deployed.�

Here�s what we�ve learned, by researching recent media reports:

Four South Dakota units are still in Iraq.

The 153rd Engineers, with units in Huron, DeSmet, Madison, Parkston, Platte, Wagner and Winner, are providing security and searching out IEDs or improvised explosive devices to keep the people in Iraq safe.

The 2nd battalion of the 147th Field Artillery is also helping with security. Its units hail from Watertown, Sisseton, Webster, Aberdeen, Redfield and Miller.

It�s been in Iraq for one year.

The 216th Fire Fighting unit of Sturgis is helping fight fires in Iraq. Its members have been busy mostly putting out flames from mortar attacks.

Iraq is home to 10 mechanics from the 238th Aviation Unit of Rapid City. Their main job is to keep aircraft in the air.

Seventy soldiers from 109th Engineer Group of Rapid City are stationed in Afghanistan. The 109th�s mission is to help rebuild the war-torn country.

They also are taking on the dangerous task of removing some of the estimated millions of land mines.

Only one South Dakota unit hasn�t gone overseas yet � the 1st Battalion of the 147th Field Artillery of Sioux Falls.

�I talk to them (the men and women serving overseas), and I get a chance to meet with them when they get a chance to come home for some R&R,� the governor said. �They are doing okay. They want to come home, but they have their team overseas to support them.

�But to a person, everyone that I�ve talked about has concerns about their family back here,� Rounds said. �The concerns are: Is somebody helping out? If my wife is home alone, is somebody there to help her shovel snow? Is somebody there to help out in case the car doesn�t start?

�Is somebody there to just give Mom a break with a couple of young kids?� he added. �In issues of finance, do they have a place to go in case a short-term loan is needed?�

Rounds had a simple request for the media.

�Would you take time out somewhere along the line,� he asked, �just to send the message to please not forget the families that are back here that are still without that person home?

�Will you ask people who know affected families to make up their minds that they will do something to help them � just to let them know that we haven�t forgotten about them?�

We are happy to oblige with the governor�s wishes.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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