Lt. Gov. reflects on military experience in Iraq

By Gus Bode

Quinn discussed impact of Iraq visit, assistance given to student soldiers

During a brief visit to the future site of the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza Wall Saturday, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn spoke about how his visit to Iraq helped shape his concern for military personnel and their families.

Quinn rang in the New Year in Iraq as part of a Department of Defense tour to visit with troops.

Advertisement

“We slept in tents, traveled with military convoys, flew in Blackhawk helicopters-we really saw first hand what is going on,” Quinn said.

Seeing first hand the difficulties troops face while in Iraq caused him to change policy here in Illinois. One such change was House Bill 4372, which allows student soldiers to retain their academic credits or have their tuition reimbursed while they are on active leave.

“I met a solider when I was in Iraq. He was about two-thirds of the way done with his semester when he got called up,” Quinn said. “He was concerned because he paid for the semester and didn’t want to be caught in a lurch. So we put a bill together to make sure that anyone who is a student has an opportunity to get credit or their money back.”

The house unanimously passed the bill Wednesday,

“There are a lot of little things that happen when someone is called to duty-things you don’t really think about ahead of time until you deal with real people that have those problems,” he said. “When you are called up, you’ve got to drop everything.”

It was Quinn’s first-hand perspective of the current situation in Iraq that has allowed him to see issues that are missed by American media, such as the work soldiers are doing in the country’s rebuilding process.

“The people in Iraqi villages are deciding how to organize their school systems, their sewer systems, post offices, everything. It is American soldiers, many of whom are under 25 years old, who are leading the town meetings. They are not telling them what to say- they are the moderators,” Quinn said. “It is pretty impressive to see a young American soldier carry that out.”

Advertisement

Currently, the Bush administration has set June 30 as the deadline for turning over sovereignty of Iraq to its people.

“It is harrowing.” Quinn said. “Every day, every moment is danger for the soldiers.”

Advertisement