Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon hailed the efforts of guard, reserve and regular military forces engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during a conference call with reporters on Friday.
Nixon joined fellow governors Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Jim Douglas of Vermont on a fact-finding mission that included stops in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of their role as members of the 11- member Council of Governors.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the Missourians and others I have had a chance to meet,” Nixon said by telephone from Afghanistan.
Nixon said the group met with wounded personnel, as well as Missouri National Guard units from Poplar Bluff and Joplin, including some of the soldiers who served with the late Sgt. Robert Crow, of Kansas City, who was killed July 10 in Afghanistan.
Nixon said he was struck by the common attitude of the wounded he talked to and their shared concern for how their fellow fighters are doing and “how quick can you get me back to my unit?”
Nixon said the group also met personally for a briefing with Gen. David Petraeus, calling him “a proven leader — a proven hero for our country.”
Nixon expressed confidence in the U.S. strategy to “go after and root out” remaining insurgent forces in an attempt to bring a final resolution to the war, which is now in its ninth year.
“I feel that Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador (Karl) Eikenberry and others that are on the ground here have a solid strategy and a force that’s prepared to complete that strategy,” he said.
Nixon also called on state businesses to join some 700 others across the state who have pledged to interview returning service members as part of Nixon’s “Show-Me Heroes” initiative (showmeheroes.mo.gov), which encourages businesses to hire returning veterans.
“Bottom line — we want them to know we will do all in our power to make sure they are in a position to have gainful and strong employment,” when they return, Nixon said.
Nixon also stressed the need for continued support for families of deployed personnel, and of making sure the state was providing funding and equipment that guard units need to sustain what Nixon expects to be “a hot summer” as additional troops pour into Afghanistan and forces take on a more aggressive strategy.
The group arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday. Nixon said Defense Department rules prohibited him from discussing their travel plans.