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Clinton Pledges Support To Veterans

Updated:
MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (AP) _ Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday renewed her pledge to ensure the United States fulfills its obligations to veterans.

At the Iowa Veterans Home in central Iowa, Clinton said she was glad to be there during the holidays _ a time when ``we all think about what we're grateful for and where we give to one another.

``Well, no one has given more to our country than our country's veterans,'' she said. ``I believe that when you sign up to serve our country, our country must serve you with the health care, the compensation and the support that you so richly deserve.''

Clinton was introduced by Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, who has endorsed her. Outside, the streets were covered with snow and ice after a major winter storm hit the Plains states.

Instead of attacking her Democratic rivals, Clinton targeted the Bush administration, which she said has slashed veterans' benefits. She added that she wants to help make up for those mistakes, and said she's already been trying to assist veterans.

``I cannot tell you how many veterans I've had to intervene for, go to bat for, cut the red tape for, who were being denied what was rightfully theirs,'' she said. ``If you are entitled to a benefit, then under our law the president of the United States shouldn't stand in the way, the president should make sure you are given what you have earned and deserve.''

Clinton vowed to enact a GI Bill of Rights to expand benefits such as education and housing to service members, veterans and their families.

``We are going to change the attitude, we're going to change the policies, and we're going to have a president who believes that honoring our veterans' service is one of the primary jobs of being the president of the United States,'' she said.

Clinton said she would bring troops home from Iraq as ``quickly and responsibly as we can,'' and turn more attention to Afghanistan. ``We can't forget it any longer. We have got to make sure that we provide the support that is necessary to do the job we should be doing,'' she said.

Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, responded: ``Our troops have already witnessed Senator Clinton vote against their funding while serving on the battlefield. This raises the question: How can voters trust her to take care of our veterans when they return from service?''

During a question and answer session, a man asked Clinton how she'll pay for care for all the veterans returning from Iraq.

``When we end the war in Iraq we are going to have a lot of money,'' she said. ``We're going to use the money that we have been spending on Iraq _ $300 million a day _ and start taking care of our people here at home.''

Earlier in the day, Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, arrived an hour late to church services at Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist church in Waterloo, Iowa, because of the weather. Clinton was expected to hold an additional event Sunday evening in Dubuque, Iowa, but while she was speaking at the veterans home she was handed a note saying her next stop was going to be canceled.

``I just got handed a note that another airport has been closed,'' she said. ``You know it's hard to get around right now. ... We'll just have to do the best we can to cover as much ground as possible between now and January 3rd.''
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