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Help Iowa Veteran Help Afghans

ELK HORN, Iowa (KCCI-TV)  A veteran in Iowa who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan said he's compelled to help the people he met in the Middle East even after returning to his home in Elk Horn.

The project takes American money and turns it into something just as valuable for locals in an Afghan village -- goats.

After two tours in Iraq with the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Missouri, Rick Burns went to Afghanistan as an Army civilian helping his commanders understand the culture, so they could focus on the battlefield.

Through his work helping locals deal with government and infrastructure issues, Burns said he saw firsthand the daily problems faced by families living in an unstable society.

"I felt like I still had something to offer -- something to give based on the things I had learned over this last decade," said Burns.

He went to work with a non-profit in Afghanistan, starting a program patterned after Heifer International that offers training, and two goats with the understanding the family will pass on the gift.

"You give something to people but you also make givers out of takers, in the sense you require them to give the first offspring back to other families," said Burns.

The goats can reproduce up to twice a year so the herd can multiply while along the way providing milk, yogurt, cheese that can be made at a local processing center.

"So it's better nutrition as well as a new revenue stream for their family," said Burns.

Fifteen families in the village of Khairabad are the first recipients of the goats thanks to almost $10,000 raised by Burns in and around the Elk Horn area.

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