When now-retired National Guard Master Sgt. Todd Eipperle was in the hospital recovering from wounds he suffered in Afghanistan, he got a visit from U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.
"I could tell he was not only concerned about me; he was concerned about all veterans," he said.
Eipperle spend a stretch at Fort Riley in Kansas recovering from wounds he suffered when a rogue Afghan security guard shot him in the knee and hip after killing two other servicemen.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, speaks to a small group of veterans Tuesday afternoon at the Iowa Veterans Home. Braley made stops in Marshalltown and Waterloo Tuesday to highlight his commitment to veterans issues.
Many, including Braley and Gov. Terry Branstad, have called Eipperle a hero. The United States government awarded him a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his response to the 2011 incident, which many say saved the lives of several members of his unit.
Braley made stops in Marshalltown and Waterloo Tuesday touting a recent effort prompting veterans across Iowa's first district to support him in the November election. Eipperle introduced Braley to a crowd of less than 10 during the Congressman's visit to the Iowa Veterans Home.
His father's service in Iwo Jima during World War II influences his desire to help ensure veterans get the best care possible, Braley said.
"Everything I do for veterans, I do for my father," Braley said. "To say that (Iwo Jima) was a defining moment in his life is a gross understatement."
So, he said, when he heard about National Guardsman Andrew Connolly's troubles, he felt he had no choice not only to intervene but also to ensure similar situations don't happen to other vets. He introduced the "Andrew Connolly Veterans Housing Act."
Connolly was unable to get government aid when he developed a terminal tumor in his spine after returning home from a tour of Iraq in 2007.
Connolly, a Dubuque native, died a year ago this month. On Aug. 6, President Obama passed the "Andrew Connolly Veterans Housing Act," which extends housing benefits for veterans with disabilities for 10 years.
"I don't know anything that makes me prouder as a Congressman: to have been a part of preserving the legacy of this wonderful family and making sure his dream of paying it forward to the next generation of veterans will be realized," Braley said.
Iowa Veterans Home Commandant David Worley said hosting events for both Democrats and Republicans helps encourage veterans to vote. At the end of the day, he said, regardless of one's political leaning, voting is important.
After Braley visited him in the hospital, Eipperle said he began researching the Congressman's policies.
By introducing the "Andrew Connolly Veterans Housing Act" as well as helping get other pro-veteran policies passed, Eipperle said Braley's commitment to making veterans' lives better is unparalleled.
"When I look at a lot of politicians and ask 'who is doing these kinds of things?" he said. "There is not anyone doing these kinds of things."
Braley is seeking his fourth term for the contended first-congressional seat against Republican hopeful Ben Lange Nov. 6.