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Veterans Day an opportunity to reflect, honor those who serve

November 10, 2018

On Sunday I have the privilege of joining the leadership of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for the dedication of two plaques outside Memorial Stadium honoring the Nebraskans and UNL students who served during World War I.

Each of those Nebraskans has a story of service. Each of the 113 university students who signed up had a reason for being willing to pay the ultimate price. It is fitting that we are permanently honoring them in this way.

On this Veterans Day, I’m reflecting on the values our men and women in uniform – then and now – have fought so hard to protect: freedom, equality, unity behind a purpose that is greater than any individual.

And I’m reflecting on the University of Nebraska’s duty to contribute to these ideals. As a member of the Nebraska Air National Guard, this work is especially personal to me. It is in fact part of the university’s land-grant tradition to recognize and serve veterans and military learners, and I am proud that all the university’s campuses are committed to giving back to the women and men who have given us so much.

This starts with supporting military members on their educational journey, from enrollment to graduation. The transition from military to academic life can be uniquely challenging. Imagine what it must be like to serve overseas, then return to a traditional college classroom. The University of Nebraska wants to make certain our service members don’t go through that experience alone.

UNL’s Military and Veteran Student Success Center offers mentoring, academic and career advising, financial planning, health services and other resources to military learners. Similarly, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of Military and Veteran Services is a one-stop shop for UNO’s 1,700 military-affiliated learners, providing career planning, peer tutoring and other services – one reason UNO is consistently designated by Military Times as one of the nation’s most military-friendly universities.

True to our mission of access, all university campuses offer financial aid to military learners and their families. We have flexible deployment policies that allow military students called to active duty to resume their studies when they return without penalty. And for those who want to continue their coursework while they’re deployed, we have fully online degree programs that include opportunities for students to earn credit for military service.

The University of Nebraska is also among the nation’s elite institutions when it comes to research that protects the United States and our allies. This summer we received a $92 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to build on our anti-terrorism research – a signal from the highest level of government that the work the University of Nebraska is doing to combat weapons of mass destruction is relevant and worthy of continued investment.

Put another way: When the government needs work done that will keep our warfighters safe, they know they can count on University of Nebraska faculty to deliver.

Consider, for example, that the University of Nebraska Medical Center is pioneering a technique for delivering life-saving oxygen to soldiers who have suffered lung injuries on the battlefield. UNMC is in the lead in developing vaccines for infectious diseases like anthrax. UNO is using social media to better understand the psychology of extremist groups like ISIS. UNL physicists are developing lasers that can detect nuclear materials hidden beneath more than a foot of steel.

It would be impossible for the university to fully repay the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our country. But we will do whatever we can to support them and their families, to lift up their service, and to put our energy and expertise to work to keep them safe. I can think of no more important work for the peoples’ university.

This Veterans Day and every day, I thank all those who have served. The University of Nebraska is honored to serve you.

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