Nebraska breaks ground on memorial, expansion for Vietnam veterans

Nebraskans will be honoring these veterans even more in the future.
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 10:34 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - They served, fighting for their country in the Vietnam War. But when these brave Americans returned home, they didn’t exactly receive a hero’s welcome.

This is why the U.S. now celebrates National Vietnam Veterans Day every year. And Tuesday in the metro, that day featured two major groundbreaking events, focusing on the care and honor due.

Much of America’s history in Vietnam is told in muddy colors, through grainy images. Those who fought the war, and survived it, see it much more vividly.

“Well, you never forget it,” said former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, who enlisted along with his brother in the army during the Vietnam War. “I think anyone who’s been to war never forgets the lessons you learned, but you move on and hopefully you’re smarter, hopefully, you can apply what you learned, to help make a better world.”

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was at two groundbreaking events on National Vietnam Veterans Day Tuesday. The first, for a sprawling $5 million Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be built adjacent to the SumTur Amphitheater in Papillion.

”Right over that hill is the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and it is for you,” Mick Wagoner, a Vietnam veteran and board member for the NVVMF, told the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The second, in Bellevue, where construction kicked off for the $9.4 million, 25,000 square foot expansion of the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home which will add dozens of beds and increase levels of service.

”On the 49th anniversary of the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam,” Ricketts said. “It’s important for us to recognize the sacrifices our Vietnam veterans made.”

More than 3.4 million Americans were deployed to Southeast Asia from 1964-1975 while 40,000 of those who served in that era still live in Nebraska.

More than 47,000 Americans died in battle there, including 396 Nebraskans, which is why veterans who came home like Hagel and purple heart recipient Jim Cada have devoted their lives in service to fellow Vietnam veterans.

”You know, I belong to the purple heart group, and I can tell you we all have that feeling for each other, and the fact that we’re there is a miracle of itself,” Cada said. “We talk about what happened, we talk about the future and we all work for other veterans.”

”I think these memorials, to recognize men and women who serve their country unselfishly, totally unselfishly, are great reminders of what should we be doing, what can we do, what shouldn’t we do,” said Hagel, who also went on to serve as U.S. Secretary of Defense. “They’re quiet havens, spiritual havens, really.”

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