Julie Ehlers and Maj. Beth Behn

WATERLOO - Local Rotarians honored two woman Monday for their role in the nation's fight against terrorism - one for being on the front lines and the other for keeping up the morale of troops.

Maj. Beth Behn was the guest speaker during the Waterloo Rotary Club's weekly luncheon at Landmark Commons. The Army logistics officer, who recently returned from a year of deployment in Iraq, is on leave visiting friends and relatives in Cedar Falls.

The club also presented Julie Ehlers, founder of Iowa's Bravest, with its periodic Service Above Self Award. The Waterloo woman, with the help of volunteers, sends hundreds of boxes a year filled with treats, personal items and other goodies to Iowa service members overseas.

Rotary is a service-based organization. It promotes humanity and caring throughout the world by donating money and materials to help people. The Waterloo club will soon send two semis filled with food, bikes and supplies to Nicaragua, and area chapters joined forces late last year to raise money to drill three water wells in Tanzania, Africa.

Club President Steve Carignan said honoring Behn and Ehlers and their work fits perfectly with the organization's values.

"(Behn's) presence brings the reality (of war) back to us. People don't realize the hardships they face," Carignan said. "This gives us a chance to show appreciation for her service."

Behn is a 1990 graduate of Cedar Falls High School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She's based at Fort Carson, Colo., with the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

Rotary asked Behn to provide insight about the war. The major returned from her second tour in Iraq on Sept. 5.

During her speech to about 100 members, Behn emphasized several key points. Iraq is a much safer place than during her first tour in 2006, military members understand the spirit of service and the Iraqi people have hope once again.

"I'm honored to be here," Behn told the Rotarians. "I'm glad to share my experiences to (your group) that clearly understands the spirit of service.

"(Military personnel) made a decision to place others above themselves," she continued. "That's what makes soldiers so special."

Carignan said people who support service members are pretty special, too. He called Ehlers "one of the great volunteer stories in the Cedar Valley."

Since 2003, Ehlers and volunteers she coordinates have brightened the day of thousands of Iowa service members. Behn said the care package she got was a big morale boost. In April, more than 4,400 boxes of Girl Scout cookies were shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The next shipment of about 250 packages is slated for packaging on Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. at the United Auto Workers Hall.

Ehlers said getting the award is a humbling experience.

""That's all I really want, service members being remembered," she said. "But it's nice to get recognized."


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