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Nebraska VFW honors 119 years of service

September 30, 2018

When your organization’s anniversary falls after autumn’s first day, outdoor celebrations — on the road or off — can get a bit dicey.

About 20 people, half of them on the stage, braved chilly, gloomy weather Saturday to observe the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ 119th anniversary at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial in North Platte.

The lunchtime ceremony concluded an intended encore to a September 2009 road rally from North Platte to both ends of U.S. Highway 83 — the national

Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Highway — and back again to mark the national VFW’s 110th anniversary.

Only one car and one motorcycle went south this time, while just one car went north, said state VFW commander Gary Bush Sr. of Ogallala. But past national commander Tommy Tradewell, who visited North Platte for the 2009 rally during his term, praised local members for their determination to carry on.

“For 119 years, the VFW has been doing great things to ensure that when (veterans) come out of the service, they’re taken care of,” said Tradewell, of Sussex, Wisconsin. “The VFW is there to remind our government to take care of veterans.”

The VFW was founded Sept. 29, 1899, by veterans of the 1898 Spanish-American War and the “Philippine Insurrection” that followed after defeated Spain ceded the Philippine Islands to the United States.

Stapleton Post 8258 member Dan Kramer, Nebraska’s VFW junior vice commander, served as master of ceremonies Saturday. Mayor Dwight Livingston, Kramer’s former North Platte Police Department superior, presented a city proclamation of Veterans of Foreign Wars Day to Bush. All three are Vietnam veterans.

Bush, longtime commander of Ogallala’s VFW Post 3755, reversed directions this year after riding north in the 2009 rally. His southern leg followed U.S. 83 to Childress, Texas, southeast of Amarillo, where son and Childress firefighter Robert Bush made sure they were greeted with two dozen well-wishers and a cookout meal.

“There are a lot of VFWs closing down” because younger veterans aren’t joining military service clubs, Bush said. “They just hold meetings once in a while.”

Tradewell noted that VFW members are expanding their outreach to active-duty military who are veterans of recent conflicts but haven’t yet been discharged.

“As time goes on, you learn you’re not invincible,” he said in his remarks. “You do need the help.”

The northern leg of this year’s road rally followed U.S. 83 to Bismarck, North Dakota’s state capital, where the major north-south national highway meets Interstate 94.

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