Every time the Remembering Our Fallen Memorial was mentioned, I would get goose bumps. Every time I would mention it was coming to our Clay County Fair, my eyes would moisten.
Our Extension Office moved out to the Fair early on Wednesday so we could be ready to stand with flags while the Memorial was escorted to our Fair. The loud roar of motorcycles approaching was soon followed by an amazing site of over 40 Patriot Riders from Omaha to Hastings escorting the Memorial to our Fair. It was incredibly touching watching them ride in. Local TV and newspaper crews were on hand to capture the event. July 11th would mark 9 years since the passing of Clay County residents Jeremy Fischer and Linda Tarango-Griess due to a roadside bomb in Iraq.
That day I just observed the scene from a distance. I knew I needed time alone to go through the Memorial later. That time came Sunday morning as it was quiet at the Fair.
Over 80 service men and women from Nebraska have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Joshua Mann was younger than me, but attended the same high school that I did. Patrick Hamburger was in the Chinook Helicopter group that often flew into the base my husband was stationed at in Afghanistan in 2011. Jacob Schmuecker was married to a gal I group up with in my home-town church. I didn’t know Jeremy Fischer or Linda Tarango-Griess but many in Clay County and the area did.
This Memorial is striking and different because it’s about viewing the faces of the fallen. There are other pictures added of their lives and people leave additional tributes at the Memorial as well. Scanning the QR codes to watch the tribute videos and reading letters left behind by moms, spouses, relatives, friends, coaches, and fellow service-members brought me to tears. We must never forget that freedom is not free!
A special thanks to Laurie Jarzynka and her family for organizing the honor escort and getting this Memorial at our Fair. I will leave you with a video I captured of the Memorial. May we never forget those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedom and the families left behind! God bless all our men and women in uniform and their families and God bless the U.S.A.!
For this Veteran’s Day, my wife asked me to write my thoughts on being a Veteran. I have served in the Nebraska Army National Guard for seven years now, and it has been a great opportunity to build myself as a person. I have been able to improve leadership skills, physical fitness, planning, self defense, and many other aspects.
I had the honor of serving with Nebraska Agribusiness Development Team Two (NE ADT 2) in Afghanistan from June 2011 through May 2012. It was an incredible experience helping subsistence farmers improve their livelihood. We worked with Afghan government officials to develop projects in agronomy, livestock, forestry, watershed, beekeeping, and education. Our efforts allowed to make many friends among the Afghan population which I will always cherish.
One of the best experiences from my deployment was the friendships I made within our unit. When you start training together you form a cohesive bond. And when you arrive in a combat zone, that bond let’s you know that you have someone covering your back. You share experiences and hardships together that normal civilians can’t fully understand. Living so long away from families can be a definite struggle, and in essence you become one big family away from home. There are the endless days of hard work, long walks to the chow hall, lack of privacy, frustrating rules, and the thought that somewhere outside the wire are people that want to kill you. You become frustrated, and can’t wait to get away from it all. And then when you finally come home, there are times when you miss it and wish you were back with all your friends.
As a veteran, there are times when people will thank me for my service and I am not sure how to respond. I don’t think of myself as a hero, I am just fortunate to have the opportunity to do something I love to do. I have gotten to experience some situations and travel to locations I would have never seen if I was not a member of the military. I have been able to build my skills, and lead Soldiers while setting an example for those under me. And most important, I have made many valuable friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
On this day of remembrance, I say thank you to those I have had the opportunity to serve with, those who served before us, and those who are still in harm’s way. We are forever indebted to our military members, from those who fought for our independence and freedom from England to those who are still in the hostile terrain of Afghanistan. They have provided security and provided hope to countless Americans. God bless the United States of America.
You can also check out this Webinar from Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension Educator who served with NE ADT2 and tells more about the NE Agribusiness Development Team Mission from his perspective.