By: Don Davis
ST. PAUL -- The Pentagon will restore military personnel leave time that was stripped from nearly 50,000 soldiers in October.
President Barack Obama Friday signed into law a bill co-sponsored by all of Minnesota’s congressional delegation that will return up to 27 days of paid leave to some of the state’s National Guard members who have served in Kuwait helping to wind down the United States involvement in Iraq. In some cases, soldiers will get pay instead of days off.
Two Minnesotans guided the effort in Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline and Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. They said soldiers were promised the paid time off, but an October rule change that came during their time overseas was not fair.
“Promises made should be promises kept, and I am committed to ensuring the government keeps faith with our troops,” said Kline, a 25-year Marine veteran.
“This is a victory for the Minnesota Red Bulls and all servicemen and women of the National Guard and reserve, ensuring they receive the full amount of leave benefits they were promised and earned defending our country,” Klobuchar said.
Minnesota Adjutant General Rick Nash said with Obama’s signature, benefits will flow as promised.
The Defense Department decided to reduce the amount of paid leave from four days per month served to one or two. About 800 Minnesota soldiers would have lost up to 27 days of leave.
In a House hearing, Kline told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the hardship the new rule would cause, and later met with him again on the subject.
The bill received overwhelming congressional support.
Earlier, Minnesota’s members of Congress fought a delay of more than three years in pay due soldiers that served in Iraq from 2005 to 2007.