Rep. Johnson discusses tank ordeal at Portsmouth Airport


By Patrick Keck - pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com



MINFORD — A tank has stood outside the Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport for the past 25 years and one U.S. Congressman is trying to keep it that way.

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, paid a visit to the airport Monday where he sat down with members of the Sciotoville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3638. Having heard their concerns, he vowed to make a quick resolution to the matter.

“We are in discussions with the Navy about what our options are,” he said to the five veterans of the post in attendance. “We expect to have some information back from them sometime later this week.”

The Iraqi tank was awarded to the post in 1996 to be displayed outside the airport under the premise that it would check in from time to time with the Naval History and Heritage Command to ensure its safety.

No issues had been reported throughout the course of that time, but the post received notice last month for newly introduced regulations. If the tank were to stay there, an insurance plan of $1 million- the tank’s assessed value- would need to be purchased.

Even if no insurance were to be purchased, they would still be on the hook for the return costs. The press release stated that the sum would be thousands of dollars.

With this being a new policy, Johnson said his staff has been asking whether the tank could be grandfathered in since the tank predates the insurance requirement. Whatever funds, either for the tank’s insurance or removal, would take away from the Veterans of Foreign Wars funds used to help service members.

“That’s not going to work for me. Let’s see what the Navy says when they get back to us at the end of the week,” Johnson said, just starting his sixth term after winning his 2020 race. “If we don’t get the answer we want, I’ll engage personally and directly with our Navy liaison.”

Commissioner Bryan Davis first heard of the issue in March when the Scioto County Veterans Service Office received a new van to take county vets to medical appointments free of charge. From there, he contacted Johnson’s staff.

He, like the others in the room, was not a fan of the new insurance policy.

“They’re changing the terms and expecting them to follow the original terms plus that,” he said, also taking note that the military equipment is not even American.

Johnson said he would follow the wishes of Post 3638 when it comes to keeping or not keeping the tank on the property. More on their minds is getting youth membership in Veterans of Foreign Wars up in the county, so they can increase their sway when it comes to advocating for veteran’s services.

As an Air Force veteran with more than 26 years of service, Johnson received a question as to what President Joe Biden could bring to the table when it comes to supporting the troops.

“I don’t hold out much hope for this administration,” he said, listing multiple focuses of the Democratic Party such as gun control and open borders as misplaced priorities. “We got to win back in 2022 that’s for sure.”

According to Biden’s 2022 discretionary budget request, $113.1 billion is included for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The request is an $8.5 billion or 8.2% increase from the 2021 level for the Veterans Affairs and includes spending on suicide prevention and research on health needs.

“We’ll have to see what those increases are for,” Johnson said when asked about the proposal which awaits a Congress vote. “If it’s for administration heads, then no, but if it’s for the actual heroes then I will consider it.”

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By Patrick Keck

pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.