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Salute to Veterans Celebration draws more than 600 attendees to La Vista

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Salute to Veterans Celebration fills conference center-p1

Reese Bolte, 10, and his father Kevin examine a photo exhibit memorializing Nebraska service members who have died since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks during Sunday’s Salute to Veterans celebration in La Vista.

More than 600 veterans and area residents of attended the La Vista Community Foundation’s Salute to Veterans Celebration on Sunday, Nov. 6, at the La Vista Conference Center.

La Vista Community Foundation President Brian Mahlendorf said it is one of the largest events to recognize current and former members of the military in the metro area.

“I think it is important to respect history and the service these individual have given,” Mahlendorf said.

Sarpy County Treasurer Trace Jones, an Air Force veteran, emceed the evening, with a keynote speech from submarine Capt. Benjamin Selph.

During the social hour, representatives of the Veterans Administration, American Legion Post 32, VFW Post 9675 of Sarpy County and other groups spent time informing attendees of the various services available to veterans.

Jay Miralles, co-founder and CEO of the 50 Mile March, said the group’s fundraising event has grown from $25,000 raised in 2020 to $250,000 in 2022.

The annual march from the State Capitol building in Lincoln to Omaha brings awareness to the struggles many vets face, such as mental illness and homelessness. Miralles said nearly 200 veterans in the area known to be homeless, and like many more unknown.

“Homeless doesn’t mean sleeping under a bridge. Homeless also means sleeping on someone’s couch, in a car, in a hotel,” he said. “They were one paycheck away from disaster, and they are too proud for help. It is our job to find them, help them and give them a hand up.”

The 50 Mile March raises donations for the nonprofit organizations Guitars for Vets, Moving Vets Forward and Operation 22 Til Freedom.

Miralles said the group is also fundraising to build a 22-unit village area in or near Sarpy County for veterans. He said the number is symbolic, as 22 veterans are estimated to take their lives daily.

Other veterans groups on-hand were touting their successes in the last year. American Legion Post 32 of Papillion said they just finished a winter coat drive, donated money for two scholarships at Papillion La Vista schools and will be sponsoring four baseball teams in the summer of 2023.

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