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Organizations aim to recognize Nebraska Medal of Honor recipients along Highway 20

Published: Oct. 10, 2021 at 8:01 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - U.S. Highway 20 runs from Oregon to Massachusetts, and connects the highest corner of Nebraska’s panhandle to the Missouri River in Sioux City.

The route, hugging Nebraska’s northern border, shows off the state’s countryside beauty.

But the road also pays homage to a special history.

“I dont really know if I can put that into words, it’s outstanding to be that close to history,” says Chris Casey, the Detachment Commander of Nebraska’s Sons of The American Legion.

That history is the Medal of Honor.

Sunday was the first time Casey had seen a Medal of Honor in person. It belongs to Wisner, Neb.,-native Dale Hansen, who earned it during the battle of Okinawa in World War II.

Hansen is the great-uncle of Tom Hansen, who now serves as the treasurer of Nebraska’s Medal of Honor Foundation.

“I feel it’s part of my duty as part of the family to honor his legacy and to promote his heroism,” Tom says.

The foundation is dedicated to remembering Nebraskans who received the highest military honor by raising funds to place signs along that 432-mile stretch of Highway 20.

Nebraska’s portion of Highway 20 was formally dedicated as Nebraska’s Medal of Honor Highway by Gov. Pete Ricketts in January 2020, making Nebraska one of the first states to make the move.

On Sunday, Casey presented Hansen with a $4,000 check on behalf of the thousands of members of Nebraska’s Detachment of the Sons of The American Legion. The money will help place two new signs along the highway.

“It’s overwhelming, organizations like Sons of The American Legion, they do so much for the communities around and we’re very thankful to receive this today,” Hansen says.

Highway 20 runs through 12 Nebraska counties, and Hansen along with the foundation are hoping to place two signs in each county along the route. The installation and upkeep of one sign is $2,000.

“For us Sons that may not have served, I mean it’s everything for us to be able to give back to our communities so to know we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, it’s huge, it’s a huge feeling, a big sense of accomplishment and honor to do things,” Casey says.

Both organizations are hoping other states will follow Nebraska’s lead, making their portions of the highway formal Medal of Honor highways. If all states make the move, the road, which is the longest highway in America, will be nationally recognized as the Medal of Honor Highway.

The mission goes on, this $4,000dollar check is a big deal for us the Sons members, but it pales in comparison the amount of money that needs to be raised to make sure we’ve got these signs all the way across Highway 20 in Nebraska,” Casey says. “But also some of the other states that haven’t bought into this to make this a national Medal of Honor highway, so there’s a whole lot more work that needs to be done.”

Of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients, 70 are from Nebraska.

To donate to Nebraska’s Medal of Honor Foundation Highway 20 project, you can visit their website.

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