“We are hitting most of our targets, so we should be fully funded,” Abbott said.
In his remarks, Gov. Pete Ricketts spoke of the generosity of Nebraskans, both financially and in spirit.
“One of the things I love about Nebraska is that Nebraskans are patriotic,” Ricketts said. “They appreciate the service that the men and women who put on the uniform do for them.”
“All across this state, you’ll see memorials in parks where citizens have gathered together to raise the funds to be able to honor our veterans. And so we are doing that again for our Vietnam veterans. We want to recognize their sacrifices, and right that wrong from over half a century ago,” he said.
Reconciling the past harm done to many Vietnam veterans will require education, according to Terry Hester, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 279 in Elkhorn.
“It’s time and past time to get it going,” Hester said. “Education for the younger generation that doesn’t know what we sacrificed for our country.”
In partnership with Bellevue University, the NVVMF has developed teacher lesson plans about Vietnam for students from third grade up to high school seniors.
Additionally, Bellevue University has created a companion website to augment the memorial. Strategically posted QR displays will link to an online repository of information, personal stories from veterans and tributes to the fallen.
“Young people, visitors and future generations will hear the authentic voices of those who fought and served during Vietnam,” Bellevue University President Mary Hawkins said.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, nine million Americans served during a 20-year period from 1955 to 1975. There were 58,220 lost, and more than 1,600 remain missing. There are approximately 7.2 million veterans of that era alive today, including 44,000 in Nebraska.
Mick Wagoner, an executive board member of the VVMF and the executive director and founder of the Veterans Legal Support Network, is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in conflicts in Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He told the audience of the contrasts between his returns home and those of the Vietnam veterans.
“I got all these times that people said ‘Thank you for your service’,” Wagoner said. “People welcomed me home — my family. Proudly wearing my uniform. Our Vietnam vets did not get that.
“They came home after a year of service, (people) said ‘take your uniform off, you don’t want to deal with the heat’ in San Francisco or the spitting on or the name calling in Sacramento. ‘You don’t want that’. So they took off their uniforms, put their gear in a gearbox and got on with life.
“That ends today, ladies and gentlemen, that ends today. Right over that hill is the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and it is for you,” he said.
Wagoner ended his speech with a request.
“So do me one favor. Bring your children. Bring your grandchildren. Bring your great-grandchildren. Teach them. Talk to them. Come here with your buddies. Laugh. Because even in combat, there is some funny ass stuff that happens, and we all know that. Laugh about that. Tell those stories. Cry. And most importantly, heal. Please.”
More about the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial can be found at www.NVVMF.org. A virtual tour memorial can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=tIojlxVQQMM.