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Taking care of our own

Supporting families of fallen heroes is the right thing to do

When most people head off to work every day, they’re fairly certain that they’ll be back home safe and sound later on.

But there’s one group of people who enter a world full of danger every single time they report to work. They are the people who protect us: police officers, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Their jobs are the most dangerous occupations in the country. And every year, somewhere in the United States, some law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel are killed in the line of duty.

Fortunately, that rarely happens in Iowa. But it does happen occasionally.

The 2013 death of Rockwell City Police Officer Jamie Buenting proved that such tragedy can strike in the smallest communities.

On the night of Sept. 13, 2013, Buenting was among the law enforcement officers who converged on a house at 502 Pleasant St. in Rockwell City. They were there to take Corey Trott into custody because a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Trott barricaded himself in the house.

When Buenting broke a window and tried to knock down a sheet that was covering it, Trott fired a shot that hit him in the neck and killed him. Buenting was 37 at the time of his death.

Trott was arrested in the house about four hours later. He was convicted of first degree murder in 2014 and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Buenting is survived by his wife, Amanda; a son and a daughter.

The grief-stricken family was blindsided by many challenges. Getting health insurance was one of them.

The city of Rockwell City covered them for five years after Buenting’s death. When the city’s insurance carrier refused to do that, local officials helped the Buenting family find new coverage.

Last year, in response to the Buenting family’s plight, state Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, introduced a bill stating that local governments shall provide insurance to the families of fallen officers and firefighters.

In the closing days of the 2018 legislative session the word ”shall” was changed to ”may” before the bill was passed. That means the local governments are not required to provide the insurance.

Fortunately, the legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds revisited the issue this year. The result is a law that enables the Iowa Lottery to deposit $100,000 in a Public Safety Survivor Benefits Fund. That fund will provide money to help cover the health insurance costs of the families of fallen heroes.

This is the right thing to do.

We thank Sexton for his leadership on this issue. We also applaud the governor and other lawmakers who moved to take care of these families.