The Nebraska State Fair honored veterans on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
The day was capped by a program for veterans followed by a parade.
“You’re all heroes,” program host Ed Meedel, a local Navy Vietnam veteran, told the crowd of about 400 people at the Heartland Events Center at the Fonner Park Complex in Grand Island. “No one can take that away from you the rest of your lives.”
The Nebraska State Fair Veteran’s Day celebration program featured a rendition of the national anthem and musical program from recording artist Eli Mosley, along with colors presented by the United Veteran’s Club of Grand Island honor guard, prayers from a military chaplain and tributes to prisoners of war, missing in action military members and those that lost their lives.
Steven Floyd, a retired naval chief from Grand Island, gave the keynote address, discussing the meaning of freedom. Asked about it, Floyd said he realized he didn’t have a clear answer.
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He discussed the definition with a variety of military friends and confidants in his quest toward a working definition.
“Freedom is the ability to self-define what freedom is to you,” he said in conclusion. “It’s the ability to teach your children anything you want, and allow them to make their own path.”
“Live life and chase your dream of freedom,” he told the gathered. “Too many of us are out there not pursuing freedom. ... We should exercise the choices freedom provides.”
“I am proud to be free and proud to have served,” Floyd said in closing.
Outside the center at a 28-foot mobile veterans unit, officials with the Veterans Administration hospital system, the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies spoke with fairgoers about health care benefits, counseling services and a slew of other benefits and services offered veterans.
“Whatever type of benefits they’re asking for,” said David Conrad of Omaha, outreach coordinator in the region for VA. “Helping veterans get appointments, straighten out some issues they may have had. They’re just walking right up to us today.”
Conrad said outreach efforts are imperative to making sure veterans know help is available. Officials at the van also noted the new Veterans Crisis Line — hit 988 and press 1.
“We’ll work anywhere. We’ll go to poker runs, American Legion speaking events,” gun shows, health fairs, college events, craft shows, “a lot of county fairs,” Conrad said. “Wherever we think there could be a veteran. We go to the community and find them. And there’s a veteran everywhere we go.”
Veteran’s Day events also included outreach efforts by a Central Community College veterans group, the Remembering Our Fallen Veteran Memorial, “Me & My Hero” photos and more.