One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 as Armistice Day to mark the first anniversary of the peace treaty that ended World War I. From that point forward, Armistice Day became an annual commemoration of America’s World War I veterans. Congress officially declared Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938. Sixty-five years ago, in 1954, President Eisenhower renamed the holiday as Veterans Day to extend recognition to all U.S. veterans.

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to express gratitude to many of our state’s heroic veterans. Last week, I was on hand as the Consul General of France awarded a Nebraska veteran—Ed Morrissette—with the French Legion of Honor. The honor recognized Mr. Morrissette for his brave actions to liberate France from Nazi German occupation. Mr. Morissette landed on Omaha Beach 75 years ago on D-Day, dodging machine gun fire to help the Allies gain a foothold in Normandy. Prior to deploying to mainland Europe, Mr. Morrissette had already served in military campaigns in North Africa and Sicily during World War II. While in North Africa, he shot down a German fighter (a Messerschmitt 109), and he later received a Bronze Star for his valor in combat.

On the actual anniversary of D-Day in June, I visited the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home in Bellevue to present award certificates to 24 World War II veterans residing there. It was a stirring sight to see the faces of Nebraskans, now well into their 90s, who had fought on the front lines to defend American freedoms from the Nazi regime. While I am on a trade mission to Germany next week, Lieutenant Governor Foley will be in Kearney at the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home for the unveiling of the Reflections of Service sculpture. The life-size bronze statute, which will be dedicated on November 11th, pays tribute to veterans by poignantly depicting their memories of combat and desires for peace. On December 6th, we will celebrate Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day at the State Capitol. Ed Guthrie, the last Nebraskan known to have survived the Pearl Harbor attack, plans to attend the ceremony. Veterans like Mr. Guthrie are true heroes, and their selfless sacrifices are deserving of our admiration and deepest appreciation.

It’s fitting that we thank our veterans by bestowing honors, building statues, and hosting parades. But we can also repay their service by enacting laws and policies to better meet their day-to-day needs. My administration has taken a number of steps to make Nebraska a more friendly and welcoming home for our military families and veterans. One of our biggest areas of focus over the past couple of years has been giving our military families easier access to education and job opportunities. We adopted a new rule to enable military spouses to receive a three-year teaching permit in Nebraska with a valid out-of-state license. We passed legislation so that military families reassigned to Nebraska can preliminarily enroll in a school district. We expanded the hiring preference in Nebraska to include spouses of service members. We enacted a law to allow active duty military members or their spouses to be licensed realtors in Nebraska without paying a licensing fee, provided they have a valid license from another state. We also entered into the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to have one multi-state license. This makes it easier for military spouses to begin work in nursing after moving to our state. Through these initiatives, and a host of others, the State of Nebraska is thanking our veterans in practical ways.

In the upcoming legislative session, we’re working to pass LB 153. Last year, Senator Brewer introduced the bill at my request, and Senator Lowe prioritized it. LB 153 exempts 50% of military retirement benefit income from state income taxation. Over 13,000 military retirees in our state would benefit from the bill. LB 153 has already gained significant bipartisan support, and I’m optimistic that the Unicameral will pass it in 2020.

One of the many things I love about Nebraskans is the gratitude and respect they show to veterans. Nebraskans organize honor flights, send notes of appreciation, and give generously to build veterans memorials and parks. We’re doing our part at the State as well, creating policies to support the 130,000 veterans who live in Nebraska. As we approach Veterans Day, be sure to show gratitude to the veterans in your family and community, and stop to say thanks if you see a serviceman or woman in uniform. Also, if you have ideas on how our state can become an even better home for veterans and military families, I hope you will contact me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or by calling 402-471-2244.

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