American pride on display

August 25, 2018

After her husband passed away earlier this summer, Yvonne Surber said she initially thought it would be much too difficult to attend this year’s 34th annual Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Reunion in Columbus. But after talking with close friends and family, she had a change of heart.

“I did it in honor of him,” said Surber, of Omaha, during Friday’s opening ceremonies at the Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial in Columbus. “I decided to come out even though I knew as hard it was going to be, it was very important to him. My wonderful friends insisted I should.”

Her late husband, Victor Surber, was a Marine and Vietnam veteran. He often looked forward to attending the annual celebration, she noted, as he was honored to have served his country.

“He took a lot of pride in it,” she said, with a smile. “And he loved the camaraderie with all of the other veterans because they know what you’ve been through.”

The Vietnam War was a costly and long conflict in which the U.S. and South Vietnam were pitted against a communist regime fueled by North Vietnam. More than 3 million people, including 58,000 Americans, were killed during the war, according to history.com.

But on Friday, American pride was truly on display. Hundreds of veterans from all over Nebraska and, in some cases, the country, with their family and friends, showed up at the memorial in town to formally kickoff the reunion.

There were the beautiful renditions of TAPs and the singing of the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, as we as numerous guests who touched on the importance of Old Glory, all veterans and a shared appreciation for their service. The day served as a banner of hope for the country.

“I think that in this day of age we’re losing that heritage that these veterans have carried on for so long,” said Vicar Tim Stacy of Zion Lutheran Church in Sutton, after delivering his remarks to the crowd and closing out the day with a prayer. “The flag doesn’t mean as much, the National Anthem doesn’t mean as much, and I think we’re losing that in the next generations, and it started right about when these veterans were coming home. We need to stem that tide, we need to turn that around and understand that we are one nation under God.”

Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce President K.C. Belitz and Mayor Jim Bulkley also addressed the crowd. Belitz said today’s world needs real heroes and that veterans, including the ones in attendance, were true examples of heroism. Bulkley later referred to the vets and their families as a unique fraternity, noting the country appreciates their service.

“You all did something special,” he said, before wrapping up. “And we are lucky to have you all here with us. Thank you.”

This year’s four-day event, put on by the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Reunion committee, is being held at the Ramada Hotel and River’s Edge Convention Center through Sunday. The reunion, which rotates from community to community each year, was and still is open to veterans from all eras.

“It has been great,” said Jim Jakub, co-chairman of the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Reunion committee, who noted the reunion is truly a great way for veterans to reconnect and even meet new friends.

As for Surber, she said her late husband would have undoubtedly loved being back in Columbus for the festivities.

“He was loving, sweet and faithful to his friends,” said Surber, whose grandchildren live in Columbus and in surrounding areas. “He always loved coming to these. I’m so glad I came.”

Learn more about the reunion at http://vetsreunion.com. The Ramada is at 265 33rd Ave.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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