Visiting the Cornhusker State

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
April 17, 2015

On Thursday, March 26, I traveled from Houston to Denver with the plan of connecting to a flight into North Platte, NE for the 113th Nebraska State Conference.  Unfortunately, my original flight was delayed more than two hours due to mechanical issues so I missed the only connecting flight.  Renting a car, I drove 250 miles from Denver to North Platte, seeing the beautiful countryside for the first time. 

Arriving late that night, I was warmly welcomed to the hotel by Kathy Knott Ocasio, State Regent.  Kathy’s theme is “Preserving our Nebraska Heritage, Celebrating the Harvest” and her project is to digitize the Nebraska DAR archives.  In addition, they will provide financial support to The History Harvest Project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  At each “harvest,” community-members are invited to bring and share their letters, photographs, objects and stories, and participate in a conversation about the significance and meaning of their materials. Each artifact is digitally captured and then shared in this free web-based archive for general educational use and study.  Appropriately, her emblem is a sheaf of wheat.

The first event I attended was the Cameo Club Breakfast on Friday morning, Pamela Huff, President, presiding.  Pamela shared her extensive collection of antique sewing implements, including many from the era of the founding of NSDAR.

The business session convened Friday morning with reports of State Officers and Chapter Regents.  In Kathy’s welcoming remarks, she stated “We are a Society of grateful women”.  Kathy reported on her delivery of a large amount of donated baby clothes to a large Indian Reservation.  Organized as a territory in 1854, the Nebraska Society DAR was founded in 1894 and currently has over 1100 members in 26 chapters with over 125 attending the Conference. Among the outstanding items reported were:

  • The State Society maintains genealogical libraries, open to the public, in Sandhills and Grand Island.
  • One chapter celebrated its 100th anniversary and is proud to claim several Real Daughters among their members
  • One chapter reported 8,000 Celebrate America! hours and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity
  • The Omaha Chapter compiled a wonderful book on the patriots of chapter members.

The Chapter Awards Luncheon was so well received that even Lt. Governor Mike Foley attended.  Awards were distributed to the Chapters and the Nebraska Good Citizen winner was presented. It was impressive to hear that 64 high schools participated in the DAR Good Citizen Awards.  I was amused by the Traveling Shoe Award – a large plaque with a pair of shoes on it, given to the member who went above and beyond the call of duty, helping wherever needed.

After lunch the attendees departed for a wreath laying ceremony at the 21st Century Veterans Memorial where we were joined by the Nebraska C.A.R.  An Honor Guard from a local VFW participated in the ceremony and Yvonne Schilz noted one gentleman was a Vietnam Veteran, shook his hand and welcomed him home.

After the Veterans Memorial, we drove to the Lincoln County Historical Museum to see the North Platte Canteen exhibit.  Days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the local residents determined to greet every train that stopped in North Platte, offering hot coffee, refreshments and Nebraska hospitality.  Operating on a volunteer basis from 1941-1946, the Canteen served over six million servicemen and women. Considering that goods were rationed at the time, it was a remarkable effort by the surrounding community and shows what can be accomplished with a group working together.

Allen Pannell, Administrator, Nebraska Veterans Cemetery at Alliance, gave a passionate presentation on honoring those who served our country.  I can assure you, there was not a dry eye in the Museum.  As we departed, we saw hundreds of Sandhill Cranes in a nearby field.  I learned that half a million Sandhill Cranes migrate to the Platte River for a few weeks in March to return to nesting places in N. Canada, Alaska and Siberia after wintering in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.  These birds travel between 170-450 miles per day and bird watchers come from all over to see them. 

Yvonne Schilz, Chief, Commemorative Partner Program and POW/MIA Liaison for the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, particularly enjoyed serving as a guest speaker Friday evening, as she is a new member of a Nebraska Chapter.  Yvonne’s father is a Vietnam Veteran and she is an Air Force Veteran.  In her personalized remarks, she shared that 396 Nebraskans gave their lives in Vietnam, 11 of which from North Platte. Kathy surprised Yvonne by giving her the oath of membership.

As Yvonne called the names of each Vietnam Veteran and Vietnam era Veteran in the audience, Kathy and I shook their hands and presented certificates of appreciation and lapel pins.  The room featured an empty table, honoring the Veterans who were no longer with us, including the Gold Star family we honored. Gregory Holloway, a Vietnam Veteran, presented me with a fabulous piece of black granite, the same material as the Vietnam Wall, with an eagle painted on it, my name and “Service Before Self.” 

The business session reconvened Saturday morning with more reports.  Amazingly, each of the chapters received 100% participation certificates for their support of the President General’s Project.  The Junior Members led the assembly in two service projects – writing notes of encouragement to women recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and folding pocket flags to be given to deploying service men and women.

The Junior Luncheon included a lively auction for wonderful peacock themed projects.  When Ellen White, serving as Auctioneer, began to bid on an item against LeAnn Reichenberg, I stepped in and mediated.

The President General’s Tea was held after the Memorial Service.  It is always a joy to thank those who have been generous with their resources and to answer their questions.

There were several outstanding displays. Candace Cain, Junior Membership Chair, is responsible for the Miss Nebraska Doll which will be available at the 126th Continental Congress in 2017.  States take turns creating outfits for the Junior Doll and the proceeds benefit the Helen Pouch Memorial Fund which benefits the DAR Schools. Miss Nebraska will feature outfits inspired by outstanding Nebraska women as well as many different aspects of Nebraska’s rich 150 year history in honor of the state’s sesquicentennial.

Yvonne Schilz and Lt Col. Nicole Hayes answered questions and encouraged chapters to honor Vietnam Veterans and family members of deceased veterans, MIA/POW and Vietnam Era Veterans  at their large display for The Vietnam Commemorative Partner Project.  It was obvious that Nebraska Daughters are strong supporters of our veterans.

The Missing in America Project locates, identifies and inters the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. To provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes. To date, volunteers have visited 1,740 funeral homes, found cremains of 10,899, identified the cremains of 2,521 veterans and honorably interred 2,298 of them.

At the banquet Saturday night, I had the opportunity to share many of the accomplishments of our DAR members and Headquarters staff.  Kathy presented me with a check for the President General’s Project and a Nebraska charm for my bracelet.  All were amused when she gave me a large certificate, proclaiming my appointment as an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.  I was amused to read:  “And I do strictly charge and require all officers, seamen tadpoles and goldfish under your command to be obedient to your orders as Admiral…”

After seeing the purple mountain majesty and amber waves of grain, I’m equipped now to travel from sea to shining sea as an Admiral!

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