Veterans tribute at UNL seeks donations, stories

Nebraska City News-Press

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s plan to expand its longstanding tradition of supporting veterans and military service members continues to take shape.

University leaders are moving forward with a Veterans’ Tribute project that will create a reflection area from the steps of the Military and Naval Science Building to the Coliseum along Vine Street. The $3.75 million project is part of an ongoing, multi-phase upgrade of the mall immediately east of Memorial Stadium. This upgrade further complements Memorial Mall and Memorial Stadium, both also built in honor of veterans.

The university has launched fundraising for the project through the University of Nebraska Foundation. The project goal is $4.5 million, which will cover construction costs and create an endowment for ongoing maintenance of the space.

A Veterans’ Tribute committee is also evaluating the project design and collecting stories from veterans and their family members for possible inclusion on the panels within the site. As the design continues to be refined, veterans, members of the military and family members are encouraged to submit memories or stories for possible inclusion in the panels. Submissions for the project can be made here.

“The project design will be military neutral without specific names of service branches or individuals who have served,” said Michelle Waite, assistant to the chancellor for government and military relations. “It will treat the military branches as one family, indicating that military service is universal, and illustrate the many multiple positive attributes of serving in the military.”

The tentative design will feature glass panels, similar to those featured in the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C. The university’s panels will illustrate the multiple facets of a service member’s life, including the importance of family, faith and camaraderie, while also depicting the personal sacrifice military service entails.

The project will also upgrade the entrance to the Pershing Military and Naval Science building, reconfiguring steps and concrete to create a chevron-like design (when viewed from above). The redesigned space will allow for military and other ceremonies, particularly those for the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Steps to the building will highlight engraved words that reflect what it means to serve in the military.

“There will also be trees, seating and landscaping that will create a serene place on campus for reflection and remembering,” Waite said.

The tribute space will be used for education, reflection, rest and study. It will also be a highly-trafficked space as fans approach Memorial Stadium — which itself was built to honor veterans — on Husker football games.

Major General Daryl L. Bohac, adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard and a university alumnus, said he and other veterans look forward to the completion of the Veterans’ Tribute project.

“As a veteran, I am particularly pleased that the University of Nebraska–Lincoln continues to enhance its focus on military service,” Bohac said. “In this space, all can come and reflect on their own service and the service of others. It will be a place to learn and to pause and give thanks in whatever form that might take.”

The project was developed to complement the addition of plaques honoring students of the university who served in World War I. The plaques were added to the interior of Memorial Stadium, at Gate 20, and unveiled during a 2018 celebration of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

A committee that featured more than 20 stakeholders representing university students, campus ROTC programs, military organizations and veterans developed the plans for the veterans’ tribute on Memorial Mall.

Donations for the Veterans’ Tribute project can be made through the University of Nebraska Foundation.