By DAVE HEINEMAN, Nebraska Governor
Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
On May 27, we will observe the Memorial Day holiday in a variety of ways. For some, this weekend will serve as the unofficial start summer, and I encourage everyone to join family and friends and explore all Nebraska has to offer.
The Memorial Holiday offers a chance to pause and remember those who are no longer with us, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation while serving in America’s Armed Forces. I want to encourage you to attend one of the many observances that will occur across Nebraska in our local communities and help us honor the memories and sacrifices of our service members who fought during the World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Operation Desert Storm and most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the many times of U.S. involvement in other conflict scenarios.
As a Veteran, I know how important it is to observe Memorial Day. Honoring our fallen comrades is an important tradition that sends powerful messages to our veterans and their families, our communities, and to those who continue to serve our Nation.
Recently, I had the opportunity to open the 36th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon. This race attracted more than 10,000 runners who competed in the full and half-marathons also included more than 400 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from 44 states and two U.S. territories, including a large contingent from Nebraska.
Among those athletes was Nebraska’s State Command Sgt. Maj. Eli Valenzuela. Command Sgt. Maj. Valenzuela completed the entire half-marathon in full uniform while carrying a heavy rucksack in which he had placed the names of the Nebraska Army National Guard’s 14 Soldiers who have died while mobilized for duty since Sept. 11, 2001. He delivered a powerful message that morning to the families of these fallen warriors, to his fellow Soldiers and Airmen still in uniform, and thousands of community members who saw him in action.
Additionally, Command Sgt. Maj. Valenzuela recently wrote a column for the Nebraska National Guard’s Prairie Soldier newspaper about the importance of the Memorial Day Holiday. I have included excerpts from his column here because I think it sends a powerful message about the importance of never forgetting those who sacrificed their lives so that the rest of us might live in the security that we enjoy today.
“Memorial Day is a time to recognize the brave women and men of our armed forces, many of whom gave their last full measure of devotion so that future generations can live in security. By military tradition, we lower our flags in their honor and we pay tribute to those who carry on their legacy of bravery and service.
“Our Nebraska Army National Guard has played an active role in our nation’s armed forces since 2001. Several Nebraska Army National Guard units were activated in the months following 9/11 with continued deployments thereafter. According to the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 80 Warriors with Nebraska ties have been killed while serving in our nation’s armed forces. The Nebraska Army National Guard has lost 14 of our citizen Soldiers.
“Every Memorial Day has a profound significance for the families of those Soldiers. Memories will be stronger, feelings of loss will be deeper and the grief will feel as if it were yesterday all over again.”
On behalf of all Nebraskans, let me extend my deepest gratitude to all the families of our Service members for the sacrifice that they have made on behalf of a free nation. I would also like to thank our Veterans and their families, as well as all those current Military members and families or the sacrifices they have made and continue to make on behalf of this great State and grateful Nation.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend.