Every year, Veterans Day provides an opportunity for Americans to come together and honor the men and women who have served in our armed forces. This Veterans Day marks a special day in our country’s history: The 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Nearly 60,000 Nebraskans served in the war and 751 lost their lives in service to our state and our country.
Nebraskans played a significant role in World War I. General John J. Pershing, who was professor of military science and tactics at the University of Nebraska for several years, led the American expeditionary force and was later named General of the Armies of the United States in honor of his service. His bust is among the notable Nebraskans in the Hall of Fame at the Nebraska State Capitol. Another notable Nebraskan who played a key role in the war was Jarvis Offutt. He was a pilot from Omaha who was killed in France. He was memorialized in the name of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska’s only Air Force base and one of the state’s largest employers. Finally, Roscoe “Dusty” Rhodes, the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team captain who was killed in action, was the original inspiration for the name of Nebraska’s football stadium. To this day, Memorial Stadium honors the Nebraskans who served in World War I.
Across the nation and within our state, special events are being held to commemorate this date and recognize the soldiers who fought in the Great War, including many Nebraskans. On Veterans Day, the University of Nebraska will be unveiling plaques at Memorial Stadium listing the students and faculty who served in World War I. At the military and veterans game on November 10th, there will be a special honor guard wearing authentic World War I uniforms and a special commemorative video made by the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs (NDVA).
This recognition of service and appreciation is greatly deserved by our veterans, but there is more the State of Nebraska has been doing to help honor our veterans. We are working to make Nebraska the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. To that end, we are improving veterans’ services, expanding job opportunities for military families, and listening to our veterans.
Over the years, the State of Nebraska has had two agencies serving our veterans. Last year, we merged the agencies to streamline and improve service. By giving NDVA oversight of our Veterans’ Homes, we created a one-stop shop for veterans and their families to receive benefits and services in the state. To continue to improve those services, earlier this year I approved a 20 percent pay increase for staff care technicians who work directly with the veterans in our homes to improve recruitment, retention, and continuity of care. In August, we hosted a ribbon cutting at the new Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home, a state-of-the-art facility that will provide world-class accommodations to hundreds of Nebraska veterans and their families.
We are also working to create more job opportunities for our military families and veterans. The state has expanded our hiring preference to include the spouses of active duty service members. The Legislature and I have teamed up to provide more reciprocity for military spouses with professional licenses. And I signed an executive order earlier this year to make changes to state regulations governing teaching permits. Now, military spouses with a valid out-of-state teaching license can receive a three-year teaching certificate in Nebraska. This gives our schools the opportunity to employ more high-quality teachers in a timely manner. The Nebraska Supreme Court has made a similar accommodation for attorneys.
To truly serve someone, you have to listen and understand their needs, challenges, and desires. That is why NDVA Director John Hilgert and I regularly host a roundtable with leadership and representatives of veterans organizations from across the state. We discuss issues and ideas important to them and the veterans they serve every day. These events help provide feedback on the work we do to serve veterans and insights into what we are doing well and where we can improve. Discussions like these help grow how we serve our veterans and shape veterans-related initiatives.
Nebraska appreciates our veterans, and we will continue to work for them. If you have any thoughts you would like to share about how we can better serve our state’s veterans, I would like to hear them. Give my office a call at 402-471-2244 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.