Blum meets with Linn County veterans in Cedar Rapids

Congressman presented with Freedom Foundation Veteran Service Award

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CEDAR RAPIDS — With a history of military service in his family, Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum said he’s always had a passion for serving Iowa’s veterans.

Blum, who represents Iowa’s 1st District, said that’s why his visit Thursday to Freedom Foundation, 609 Center Point Road NE in Cedar Rapids, was such an honor.

Blum said his passion for veterans is reflected in his campaign — the House freshman is seeking another term and faces former Cedar Rapids City Council member and Democrat Monica Vernon in the Nov. 8 general election.

“I’m a balanced-budget guy and I’m fiscally conservative, but we should not be balancing the budget on the backs of senior citizens, disabled people or veterans,” he said. “Our veterans have served us and we need to fulfill our promises to them.”

Blum, a Dubuque businessman, met with a crowd of roughly 40 people Thursday and helped serve lunch — sloppy joes.

During the visit, Freedom Foundation executive director Chuck Elias presented Blum, who is not a veteran, with the not-for-profit’s Freedom Foundation Veteran Service Award, which includes a star from a retired American flag.

“He’s a strong supporter of the Constitution,” Elias said. “We’re just happy he’s here, he cares a lot about the vets.”

Freedom Foundation, formerly known as the Iowa Veterans Welcome Center, follows a code of “Veterans helping veterans” and provides veterans and their families with a food pantry and clothing program. It also offers outreach to help veterans make it to medical appointments and provides other services.

In the first half of this year, Freedom Foundation has served nearly 3,000 people, provided about 13,250 pounds of food to more than 800 veterans and clocked more than 4,000 volunteer hours.

Blum’s visit comes weeks after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General said it would review the death of Sgt. Brandon Ketchum, a Davenport veteran who committed suicide July 8 after he was reportedly denied admittance to the Iowa City VA Medical Center.

Blum said veteran suicide is a real concern — adding that 25 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day — and something that needs to be addressed.

“(Post-traumatic stress disorder) is a real issue, mental issues are real issues and what a tragedy — a national tragedy,” he said.

With the November election rapidly approaching, Blum touched on the ongoing question regarding how many debates he and Vernon plan to hold between now and then.

Blum earlier this month proposed 10 debates with Vernon; she countered with a proposal for two. His latest proposal is for six debates, but he said that may be unlikely.

“What we hear is she’s not budging ... so I don’t know where it’s at,” he said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Vernon’s campaign manager Michelle Gajewski said she had not yet heard back from Blum’s campaign about Vernon’s initial proposal for two debates.

“We’re really excited to get two televised debates on the schedule,” Gajewski said.

She added no debates had been scheduled as of Thursday.

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