By Governor Pete Ricketts
April 3, 2017
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
One hundred years ago this week, the United States Congress passed the Declaration of War against Germany requested by then President Woodrow Wilson. The catalyst for America’s entry: Unrestricted German submarine warfare sunk several American merchant ships, which resulted in the deaths of numerous American citizens. The war would forever change our country and reshape the global balance of power.
During this anniversary, Nebraska will be honoring those who served and gave their lives in the “Great War.” A century has passed since the First World War, but shadows of the war remain across Nebraska today. Nebraska’s most notable connection to “the war to end all wars” is General John J. Pershing, whose leadership helped defeat Germany and bring a swift conclusion to the war. Pershing led the First Army, which was a key part of the Hundred Days Offensive leading to the armistice ending World War I (WWI). Today, a bust of General Pershing sits in the Hall of Fame at the Nebraska State Capitol alongside other notable Nebraskans like Buffalo Bill and Willa Cather.
During this anniversary, we will honor the heroes who came home from war, but also the many who died during service. Nine million soldiers lost their lives and 21 million more were wounded during WWI. The unprecedented carnage saw the first use of chemical warfare, flame throwers, tanks, and fleets of combat aircraft. It also saw the introduction of the use of X-ray machines, blood banks, and guide dogs. WWI also coincided with the birth of the American Red Cross in Nebraska, which is also celebrating their 100-year anniversary this year.
Over the years, Nebraska has honored those who gave their lives in WWI. Offutt Air Force Base was named after Omaha native Jarvis Offutt who served as an aviator in the U.S. Army Air Service and was killed in France during the war. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium was dedicated to all “who served and fell in the Nation’s Wars,” including Roscoe “Dusty” Rhodes, the Captain-elect of the Nebraska football team of 1918 who was also killed in action in France. Jarvis and Roscoe were just two of the over 800 Nebraskans who lost their lives in World War I.
For the next two years, the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs (NDVA) and other organizations will be leading a variety of initiatives to highlight this anniversary and honor our heroes:
- Commemorative Website: NDVA has launched a new website honoring the 100th anniversary of WWI. You can check it out at https://veterans.nebraska.gov/WWI.
- Poppies Across Nebraska: A cooperative effort of Nebraska Extension’s Master Gardener Program and the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs which encourages the continued care of, or planting of the flower memorialized in the famous and heart wrenching poem of the First World War “In Flanders Fields.”
- Memorial Stadium Honor Guard: A World War I commemoration honor guard will present the colors at the beginning of the University of Nebraska Football game on November 10, 2018 at Memorial Stadium to mark the end of WWI.
- Humanities Nebraska will host Seward “World War I: Legacies of a Forgotten War” on June 15-18, 2017 and Nebraska City “World War I: Legacies of a Forgotten War” on June 21-24, 2017. Visit http://humanitiesnebraska.org/ for more information.
Today, there are no longer any veterans of WWI in Nebraska, but we honor their sacrifice and their memory these one hundred years later. Whether they served on the home front or went overseas, Nebraska and its people played an important role in securing ultimate victory and establishing the United States as a world power changing our state and nation forever.
Let us use this opportunity to honor all of Nebraska’s servicemen and women, past and present, and their families. They have made incredible sacrifices so that we may have to opportunity to live in the best place in the world. We thank them for all they have done and continue to do in the name of freedom.
Please join Nebraskans and Americans from across our country in honoring this historic anniversary. Let us know how you are honoring the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI by reaching out to my office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 402-471-2244.