THE ISSUE: Veterans Memorial Building building will be focus of Veterans Day 2017.
LOCAL IMPACT: Program seeks to honor veterans and to showcase to community members what the building could become and how people can get involved in the project.
The Veterans Memorial Building in Nebraska City, created through a connection with citizens and with the intention to honor veterans, opened in 1929, served as community center for decades and fell out of use due to maintenance issues in 2007.
Ted Beilman of Nebraska City hopes that, by honoring veterans and by connecting through the community, the Veterans Memorial Building will gain a second life and be restored to its proper use.
For two years, Beilman has been laboring to forge a connection.
On Nov. 11 of this year, that connection might be completed.
But Beilman isn’t one to wait. He continues to work and to build the connection now.
The latest example of that work was a partnership between Beilman and students from the Nebraska City Middle School to clean up around the Memorial Building and get it ready for Veterans Day.
Katie Meredith, the guidance counselor at Nebraska City Middle School, got involved in the Memorial Building project after a shopping trip to Brown’s Shoe Fit.
Meredith saw the murals in Memorial Way on Central Avenue and began to look at the Memorial Building. She began to wonder what it was used for and why it was not being used currently.
After getting a run down of the history from her husband, who grew up in Nebraska City, Meredith became curious about what was being done with the building these days. She called Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce, was connected to Beilman and went down on a weekend day to see the inside of the building. A short visit to the building proved inspirational.
“My mind was just reeling with the possibilities of that place and what amazing projects that can happen there to benefit our community,” Meredith said.
Beilman went on to tell Meredith about his plan to honor Otoe County veterans during a program on Veterans Day weekend. And Meredith wanted to get her students involved.
She said she feels that it’s important for students to have a community connection and to develop pride for their hometown.
Beilman would later call Meredith and talk to her about the clean up project that students could take on to get the building ready for Veterans Day weekend.
They were all in.
Beilman said he had often seen middle school students on their way to school stop and look into the Memorial Building through the front doors or the windows and wondered what they could be thinking.
Once the students got there, they let it be known what they were thinking.
The students jumped into the clean up and worked alongside members of the Blue Star Mothers of America group, a support group for veterans.
In addition to elbow grease, the students offered ideas.
“The kids are ecstatic with the opportunity to be involved,” Meredith said. “Their eyes lit up. You could hear them bouncing ideas. It was awesome.”
Students had school purposes in mind, like dances and basketball games, and community events, like skating parties and community dinners and more.
Meredith said the students want to continue to be involved as much as possible.
The work of the students and Blue Mothers has got the building looking a lot better.
“We are starting to make it look really nice,” Beilman said.
And the program is getting closer.
The event, Nebraska City Honoring Our Heroes, an official state event honoring 150 years of Nebraska history, will take place inside the Memorial Building on Saturday, Nov. 11, and Sunday, Nov. 12.
Inside the building will be bios and photos celebrating and honoring the service of over 800 Otoe County veterans.
Beilman said patriotic music will be played at the Veterans Memorial Building and that a projector screen on the main stage of the auditorium will feature photos of veterans from Otoe County.
There is an event planned for Memorial Way as well. A mural honoring veterans will be dedicated at the 11th hour of the 11th month of the 11th day of 2017.
A massive flag give away is also planned. Beilman said he will hand out 150 flags to the first 150 people at the Memorial Building on Saturday and also on Sunday. He will also give out 150 flags to the first 150 people at the mural dedication. That’s a total of 450 flags in two days.
And there’s more. Beilman said there will be a drawing for a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. and a drawing for a state flag that flew over the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln.
To say this event is star spangled and patriot driven would probably be an understatement, but the purpose of the event goes beyond two days of celebrating those who deserve adoration.
Beilman is hoping that students will see what potential the building has and what purposes it can serve for the community if it is restored.
In 1927, 12 people had a vision for the Veterans Memorial Building, and two years later, some 3,000 people were present at the dedication of the structure. It’s definitely possible to have that vision again. And, through the community, to accomplish a mission.