Grundy County honors veterans with appreciation luncheon in Reinbeck

Veterans from all across Grundy County got together Sunday afternoon in Reinbeck for a Veterans Appreciation Luncheon put on by Grundy County Veterans Affairs. The event lasted close to two hours and provided veterans and their spouses a meal and a program with several informational speakers. Photo by Darvin Graham

Veterans from across Grundy County were given an opportunity to gather and be recognized last weekend during a Veterans Appreciation Luncheon at the Memorial Building in Reinbeck.

More than 85 were in attendance on Sept. 26 for the event put on by the Grundy County Veterans Affairs organization.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck National Honor Society students served up a lunch of pulled pork, beans, potato salad and cake for the veterans and their spouses who were entertained by an hour of live music from Grundy County guitar duo Unpolished Jams (Travis Case and Chris Buck).

Once the meal was complete a short program was held, opening with the Pledge of Allegiance, a Moment of Silence and the playing of Taps.

Following were a series of speakers that addressed the group of local veterans including Grundy County Veterans Affairs Commissioner William Beyer, Tama County Veterans Affairs Director Elizabeth Ledvina, County Supervisor and Iowa Army National Guard member Lucas Halverson and Lt. Col. Garrett Gingrich.

Travis Case (right) and Chris Buck (left) sang a number of classic rock and country tunes while veterans were enjoying their meal at Sunday’s Veterans Appreciation Luncheon in Reinbeck. The two are both from Grundy County and play in a duo called Unpolished Jams. Photo by Darvin Graham

In his opening remarks Beyer commended the work of Grundy County Veterans Service Officer Janetta Miller-Buck for helping to increase the productivity of the department in its service to area veterans.

The Veterans Affairs Commissions works to coordinate the many benefits afforded to veterans including medical care and insurance, compensation, pension, home aid and transportation, employment, assistance with home loans as well as educational benefits.

Miller-Buck was instrumental in the organization of the luncheon event after the idea was brought to her by Halverson over the winter. The group hopes to make the event an annual gathering.

Next up was Elizabeth Ledvina who works as the Tama County Veterans Affairs Director as well as serving as the Chair of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.

Ledvina spoke about the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund program of which the Iowa commission oversees.

Veterans Service Officer Janetta Miller-Buck instructs the attendees at the Grundy County Veterans Appreciation Luncheon at the conclusion of the event Sunday. Standing next to her is District 1 Grundy County Supervisor Lucas Halverson. Photo by Darvin Graham

The trust fund provides needs-based assistance to Iowa veterans in such areas as travel for medical care, emergency vehicle or house repair, unemployment, job training, vision care, hearing care and dental care, counseling services, emergency room and ambulance transportation assistance, funding for family support groups and rental housing assistance for homeless veterans.

Veterans must meet specific income guidelines to qualify for assistance with the trust fund.

The Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs recently changed their income guidelines to allow more individuals to qualify for the assistance programs.

Since April of 2021 when the guidelines were adjusted, participation in the programs has skyrocketed, more than tripling in volume for both the number of applicants and the total dollars distributed.

In the past four and half months Ledvina said the trust fund has provided a total of $990,880 in assistance to Iowa veterans.

Ledvina particularly pointed out a program available to local veterans service organizations through the trust fund which offers grant funding to help pay for honor guard services performed at veteran funerals.

She encouraged Legion posts, AMVETS groups and VFW posts to look into those support dollars as they work to continue their honor guard services in their communities.

Newly elected Grundy County Supervisor Lucas Halverson then addressed the crowd with a brief message speaking about veterans carrying the “torch of freedom” throughout the nation’s history.

Earlier this year Halverson completed his first deployment that included a mission to Qatar in the Middle East. He returned home in April after 11 months away.

The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Lt. Col. Garret Gingrich with the Iowa Army National Guard.

Gingrich is a Dysart native and is commander of the National Guard ‘Ironman’ 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry regiment. He is also a firefighter/paramedic with Waterloo Fire Rescue. In his address, Gingrich spoke to the crowd about the proud history of the 133rd Infantry regiment in Iowa as well as his experience as a public servant and soldier over the past two decades.

“We all have memories and stories that inspire us as Americans to uphold (the legacy of our veterans),” Gingrich said. “The sacrifices made on our behalf are breathtaking. I believe it’s the sacrifice, above all, that distinguishes the men and women that have served our country, whether or not they had intentions to go to war. Not many have gone forward and served their nation.”

Those interested in more information regarding the Veterans Affairs Commission can contact Janetta Miller-Buck in Grundy County at 319-825-4952 or Elizabeth Ledvina in Tama County at 641-484-3160.