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Fallen soldier's family raises donations again for Iowa Veterans Home

Travis Vaughn

CEDAR FALLS — For the 10th year, a Cedar Falls couple is mounting a donation drive for residents of the Iowa Veterans Home in memory of their son killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

Kandie Vaughn, stepmother of U.S. Army Spc. Travis Vaughn, and her husband, Brad, are conducting their annual “Shower of Gifts” of toiletries and other necessary items for residents of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

A 1999 Cedar Falls High School graduate, Travis Vaughn was a member of the U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers, based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He was killed in a helicopter crash Feb. 18, 2007, in Afghanistan. He received the Army Commendation Medal for his service, among other decorations. The Vaughns began the donation drive in 2008.

“For me I wanted to do this so Travis would not be forgotten,” Kandie Vaughn said. “But it’s kind of taken a turn. It’s still for Travis, but it shows 400 or 500 other people that they haven’t been forgotten either.”

She was referring to the Iowa Veterans Home residents, many of whom are aging Korean or Vietnam War veterans. There also are still a few World War II veterans living there.

Vaughn recalled on a recent visit to the veterans home she met an Iowa Army National Guard veteran in his 50s, without a family. “He said he was looking around because he was going to live there some day,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn and a core of volunteers are setting up collection stations for donated items at several locations, including the Cedar Falls Eagles Lodge on Lone Tree Road; the Federal Pub in Hudson; the Janesville Tap in Janesville; Mary Lou’s Bar & Grill and Cedar Falls Family Restaurant, both on Center Street in the North Cedar area of Cedar Falls, and Rydell Chevrolet in Waterloo, where Brad Vaughn heads up the collision center.

Items being sought include shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, new toothbrushes, denture adhesive cleaner and socks and T-shirts for men and women.

Donations will be accepted through Feb. 10, when items will be gathered together. Additional donations are welcome at the event noon to 5 p.m. that day at the Cedar Falls Eagles Lodge, 2125 W. Lone Tree Road, where there will be live music, food, an auction and a raffle. Members of Travis’ family will be among the servers.

The Vaughns and volunteers will deliver the donated items to the Veterans Home Feb. 16. Kandie Vaughn notes the donations are always appreciated by the residents, many of whom are disabled.

“It’s a lot of work,” Brad Vaughn said. “Kandie does the majority of it. But we need to do it. Especially on the 10th year, in Trav’s memory. These people look forward to it. When we get down there, there’ s a line. It’s something they look forward to. It’s something we enjoy. It’s nice seeing what they get out of it.”

More information may be obtained by contacting Kandie Vaughn at 429-4528.

Travis Vaughn

Iowa lawmakers consider banning drones over prisons

DES MOINES — Iowa lawmakers looking to stay one step ahead in the game of drones are drafting legislation to prohibit operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over jails and prisons.

Lawmakers are being spurred to action by reports that drones have been used to drop drugs, cellphones and other contraband inside prison grounds, said Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota.

Prison officials are concerned drones could be used to smuggle weapons into a prison.

And while the Iowa Department of Corrections has reported no incidents, a spokesman said drones have been observed near or over prisons.

Klein acknowledges the ban on drones over prisons would be hard to enforce but said his aim is to give prosecutors a tool to use if the drone operator is identified and apprehended.

“We’re not talking about having the prison guards in the towers being able to shoot these things down” because that would violate Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Klein said.

His proposal, House Study Bill 518, received a lukewarm response from lobbyists at a House Public Safety subcommittee meeting.

Lobbyists representing insurance companies, news and movie companies, Google, airports and pilots all raised questions about the workability.

They suggested they could support the bill if it was amended to create exemptions for their use of unmanned aerial vehicles. A Department of Public Safety spokeswoman suggested there should be a carve-out for law enforcement.

Iowa is not alone in considering drone-related legislation. Last year, 38 state legislatures had such proposals, with 17 passing 23 pieces of legislation.

In some states, prison systems are looking into installing drone detection systems, and some officials predict in the near future that will be a standard part of prison security.

The Department of Correction has looked into drone detection technology and will stay in touch with other state prison systems as it researches and tests such systems, spokesman Cort Overton said.

Klein has been the House’s point person on drones since 2014 when legislation to prohibit using drones to film or record over someone else’s private property. In that debate, one lawmaker called drones a “non-issue.”

By the end of that session, Klein said, “every day legislators were dropping news articles on my desk” relating to unmanned aerial vehicles. “It didn’t take long before people said this is a serious thing.”

Since then, drone sales have expanded as farmers, real estate agents, photographers and others have begun using them for commercial and personal use.

Klein, for example, owns a drone he uses for crop scouting at his southeast Iowa farm.

Klein also said the Legislature may look at limiting or prohibiting flying drones above critical infrastructure such as municipal water supplies.

“That’s one of the things we’ve talked about is where are the places we need to make sure are fully secured,” he said. “Jails, prisons are easy ones, but how far do we go because we have more infrastructure that we need to be safeguarding.”

Another concern is drunken droning.

The New Jersey Legislature recently prohibited operation of a drone by anyone with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent — the same as the limit for operating a motor vehicle. Violators face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. The measure also bars flying a drone near a prison or in pursuit of wildlife.

Alex Murphy at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said the agency’s legal experts believe current law prohibiting hunting, tracking, following or harassing wildlife from an aircraft includes UAVs.

Federal rules already put limits on speeds, altitudes and distances from airports where drones can be flown.

Also, drone operators, even if they are not using them for commercial purposes, must register with the FAA and have basic licensure acknowledging the operator knows how high they can be flown, for example, Klein said.

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