Military Service: The Cornerstone of a Free Republic
By Governor Pete Ricketts
November 7, 2022
Governor’s official photo here.
The cornerstone of the Nebraska State Capitol being lowered into place on November 11, 1922. Photo courtesy of History Nebraska.
Throughout our state’s history, Nebraskans have made it a priority to honor our veterans. In fact, our appreciation is built into the very foundation of our State Capitol building.
One hundred years ago, in 1922, a military parade escorted veterans to the site of today’s State Capitol in Lincoln to celebrate the laying of the building’s cornerstone. The cornerstone paid tribute to Nebraska’s veterans. It bears the inscription: “Dedicated to the Memory of Those Who Fell in the Service of their Country.” The ceremony took place at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year to mark the exact time of the ceasefire that officially ended World War I in 1918.
Our ancestors rightly recognized that a willingness to serve is the cornerstone of a free Republic. America’s greatness endures because of selfless citizens who willingly take responsibility to serve their families, communities, and nation. Our women and men who’ve put on the uniform deserve our gratitude year-round, and especially on Veterans Day.
This includes our surviving veterans, like Army veteran Erin Colson, who continues to serve others as a veteran service officer at the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs (NDVA). This year, Erin helped convene the State’s inaugural Women Veterans Symposium to gather and honor Nebraska’s female veterans. It also includes those who gave their lives serving our country, like fallen Marine Corporal Daegan Page. A member of the Omaha community, Daegan was just 23 years old when he was killed last year while serving his country during the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
This Veterans’ Day, we’re gathering to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Capitol’s cornerstone being laid. We’ll thank the men and women who’ve bravely served in our nation’s military and honor those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. During the ceremony, I’ll sign a proclamation recognizing Veterans Day 2022 in Nebraska. The event is being co-hosted by the Office of the Nebraska Capitol Commission and the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I invite you to join us—either in-person or online. A livestream will be provided by Nebraska Public Media starting at 10:30 a.m. with prelude music performed by Offutt Brass. You can tune in at nebraskapublicmedia.org/en/series-media/non-series-video/capitol-cornerstone-veterans-day-program-50019877. We’ll be joined by Nebraska veterans and the families of the fallen, including Wendy Adelson, Daegan Page’s mother.
Veterans and military families are some of the most dedicated, patriotic citizens in our society. We want more of them to put down roots here in the Good Life, and we’ve worked to grow the benefits and programs we provide in recognition of their service.
- We want top-notch mental health support for our veterans, our service members, and their families. In May, I announced Nebraska’s participation in the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide. This two-year initiative brings together the NDVA and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to identify gaps in care and drive enhancements to the State’s mental health services.
- We want to create a tax-friendly environment so veterans choose Nebraska as their home. Last year, I signed LB 387 into law to exempt 100% of military retirement income from state income tax. This was one of my top legislative priorities in 2021.
- We want to ease the transition from military service to civilian employment. The State launched the SkillBridge program, which connects servicemembers in their last 180 days of military service with Nebraska businesses. This allows veterans to explore post-military career opportunities and gives Nebraska employers the inside track to hiring great leaders.
- We recognize that military spouses make tremendous sacrifices in service to our country, and we want to ensure they can find great jobs in the Good Life. Last year, I worked with the Unicameral to pass LB 389 to make it quicker and easier for military spouses to gain certification to teach after moving to Nebraska. This adds to the previous work we’ve done to help military spouses.
- We want excellent care for our veterans. This March, we broke ground on a major expansion at the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home (ENVH) in Bellevue. We’re adding a net total of 24 new beds so that we can give care to even more veterans. The expansion will also allow us to provide new services through the Adult Day Health Care program.
We’ve seen great success from our veterans initiatives. Nebraska has one of the lowest unemployment rates in America among veterans. In 2021, the average annual unemployment rate for veterans in Nebraska was 2.4%—even lower than our overall rate of 2.5%. In October, SmartAsset ranked Nebraska as the fourth-best state in the nation for veterans. While that’s a strong ranking, we have our sights set on the #1 spot!
Our state’s tradition of honoring our veterans remains as vibrant as ever. Nebraskans volunteer time and donate money to build parks and monuments honoring our veterans. These tributes preserve the stories of their heroic patriotism for future generations. This year, the State used funds from our Shovel-Ready Capital Recovery and Investment Act to support veterans projects underway across Nebraska.
- Nebraska City Veteran’s Memorial Building
- Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation (Papillion)
- Lexington Veteran Pavilion
- Siouxland Freedom Park Interpretive Center (South Sioux City)
If you have additional ideas for how Nebraska can support military families and veterans, please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 402-471-2244. May God bless our veterans, and may God bless the great state of Nebraska!