National Veterans Awareness Week
By U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel
America's veterans are America's heroes. In order to help educate young people about the bravery of veterans and the heroic contributions they have made to our country, I cosponsored a resolution designating this week as National Veterans Awareness Week. It is essential that America's future leaders understand the history of war and the sacrifices and contributions veterans have made to future generations. All veterans, from those of World War II through today's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, play a critical role in educating us about duty, sacrifice and bravery.
There is much to learn about America's veterans. The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress continues to be an important resource that contributes to our collective understanding of war. The Veterans History Project is dedicated to preserving the experiences of America's veterans by recording the oral histories of living veterans. The interviews are archived and become a permanent record of the courage and sacrifices of thousands of veterans. In August, an interview session was held for local veterans as a part of the Nebraska Elks Fall Conference in Grand Island. Twenty-five Nebraska veterans were interviewed and their stories from war are now a permanent part of history. You can find their stories and other's at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
As the United States continues to face the challenges of our time, more veterans from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are returning home to their families and communities. Since 2001, over 7,000 active duty, guard, and reserve troops from Nebraska have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. This new generation of veterans returning home impacts the fabric of our society as much as the generations of veterans before them.
Our newest veterans have a unique opportunity to develop personal connections with their communities and can help frame the large issues of war and peace and important issues close to members of the Armed Forces and their families. Veterans understand that war is complicated and has consequences. It is important to understand that the contributions and sacrifices of the men and women who served in the Armed Forces have been vital to maintaining the freedoms and way of life enjoyed by all Americans.
There are veterans who are not able to share their stories or experiences this Veterans Day. To date, 26 service men and women with Nebraska ties have died in the Iraq war. Nebraska most recently lost Army Specialist Darren Howe of Beatrice, Army Staff Sgt. Jason Fegler of Banner County and Army Captain Joel Cahill of Omaha. These soldiers are examples of bravery and unconditional sacrifice that we recognize, remember and reflect upon during National Veterans Awareness Week and every day.
I look forward to celebrating America's heroes this week during Veterans Day ceremonies in Grand Island, Kimball and Hershey. America's veterans remind us that there is more to honoring veterans than parades and celebrations. National Veterans Awareness Week and Veterans Day are opportunities to thank our veterans for their sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation.