By Senator Mike Johanns
Scattered across America are monuments to our military, celebrating victories and memorializing campaigns. These are important reminders of the history of our freedom. They help us teach our kids about the men and women who so bravely and selflessly volunteered to stand guard over our ideals and security. We owe them our gratitude long after we they leave the battlefield and honor their memory and service when they pass on. A new national cemetery for our veterans and their families nestled in eastern Nebraska will do just that.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced it is moving forward with plans to create Nebraska’s second national cemetery to honor those who served in our Armed Forces. The proposed location, just west of Papillion, will be equipped to accommodate the 112,000 area veterans who now reside as far as 200 miles from the nearest national cemeteries in Leavenworth, Kan., or Fort McPherson National Cemetery south of Maxwell, Neb. The cemetery project, now in the land acquisition phase, will serve as an interment option for area veterans and eligible family members.
Adding a national cemetery to eastern Nebraska has been a priority of mine since entering the Senate. I cosponsored legislation in 2009 to establish a national cemetery serving eastern Nebraska, and I’m pleased to see the project moving closer to becoming a reality. Our departed veterans deserve the opportunity to be buried next to comrades in arms at locations that convey respect and tranquility. This project is one of five national cemeteries currently being developed by the VA across the country. The goal is to provide veterans with access to burial options at a national or state cemetery within 75 miles of their home.
As a member of the Senate, I am honored to have the duty of helping our troops during and after their military service. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I recognize our responsibility to pass smart legislation that serves our veterans in the most meaningful way possible. This is important throughout their lives and it’s important when the time comes to return them to the land they worked so diligently to protect.
National cemeteries are of great significance to veterans, their families and all freedom-loving Americans. They serve as more than a final resting place for our veterans. They are a sanctuary where families can celebrate the lives of their loved ones and grateful Americans can honor their sacrifice. They help us all remember that freedom isn’t free. Folks across our state and country dedicate their lives to this cause. Rows of white stones precisely placed in lines across sprawling hills offer a human side to the price of freedom. They silently speak the names of our departed service members who once stood shoulder to shoulder against forces wishing to do us harm. And even as time passes, their markers, standing at attention in perfect rank and file, remind us of the sacrifices made and the prices paid so that our way of life may endure.