News>Nebraska's fallen warriors honored in ceremony
Bellevue, Neb., residents Emily Larson and Julia Whitworth, both quilters with the Home of the Brave Quilt Project, look at photos of Nebraska’s fallen soldiers decorated with flowers located in the lobby of the Bellevue Medical Center Aug. 7. The Memorial wall will travel across the state reminding everyone of those individuals who gave all in support of our nation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)
U.S. Air Force Col. John Rauch, 55th Wing commander, and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. William W. Thomaston, 55th Wing command chief meet with Marines while attending a traveling memorial at the Bellevue Medical Center, in Bellevue, Neb., Aug. 7. The traveling memorial displays will travel across Nebraska to honor those who gave all in battle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)
Paulette Davidson, CEO, Bellevue Medical Center, provides opening remarks in front of the hospital where the traveling military memorial is displayed in Bellevue, Neb., Aug. 7. People in attendance included active duty military members, family of the fallen soldiers and local area residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)
Ten-year-old Evangeline Mason, from Papillion, Neb., attends a ceremony to honor Nebraska’s fallen service members being held at the Bellevue Medical Center, in Bellevue, Neb., Aug. 7. Evangeline is one of several Nebraska quilters that designed a patch that was used to finish a quilt for the Fallen Heroes Quilt that is presented to the family of the soldier once completed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)
U.S. Air Force Col. John Rauch, 55th Wing commander, addresses the people in attendance at a ceremony to view a traveling memorial depicting those Nebraskans who’ve given all in combat at the Bellevue Medical Center in Bellevue, Neb., Aug. 7. The unfinished quilt, behind the wing commander, is being put together as part of the Home of the Brave Quilt Project where Nebraskan’s each design a patch to add to the quilt. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)
The members of the Home of the Brave quilt project stand with Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb A. Nelson’s family who received the quilt in his honor at a ceremony held at the Bellevue Medical Center, in Bellevue, Neb., Aug. 7. Local area quilters each added a single square to the quilt to give to the family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)
Bellevue, Neb., resident Mike Almsteier pins a yellow ribbon to the quilt being assembled for those Nebraskans who gave their all in combat during a ceremony held at the Bellevue Medical Center, Aug. 7. The quilt is a part of the Home of the Brave Quilt Project to pay tribute to the families who’ve lost loved ones in combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)
8/10/2012 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Taps echoed around the Bellevue Medical Center as a ceremony to celebrate the lives of fallen Nebraskans took place Aug. 7.
The ceremony was held with a wall of remembrance and a quilt created in memory of 67 Nebraskans who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
"We are blessed to have photos at this exhibit that personalize and provide a valuable glimpse into the lives of those individuals," said Col. John Rauch, 55th Wing commander. "These photos give us a unique perspective through the lens of the person whose life was touched by one of these military members."
The collage of personal mixed with professional photographs lined the hall of the Bellevue Medical Center, where patrons gathered to share memories or simply hear stories about these heroes. The smiles, laughter and tears flowed as friends and family members reflected on their memories and loss.
"My wife Evonne and I came up with the idea for [the traveling memorial] after reading a story about Lonnie Ford, a school teacher in Pender, Neb., who lost his son Joshua in Iraq," said Bill Williams.
Ford's concerns about his son being forgotten touched Bill and Evonne so deeply that they dreamed of an exhibit of pictures of fallen service members. These would travel around the state of Nebraska so that no one would forget their sacrifice. Their dream to keep the memories of fallen Nebraskans made such an impact that it has now been adopted in more than seven other states.
The second item on display at the ceremony was a quilt made by the Home of the Brave Quilt Project.
"This quilt travels around Nebraska and is made out of block sections with each section created by a different quilter in Nebraska for a different service member from Nebraska," said Melinda Armstrong, Home of the Brave Project Eastern Nebraska coordinator. "On the back of the blocks is a biography of each one of the service members who has been lost, and we also give a quilt to each family to honor the family."
The impact of the quilt project could be felt by all in attendance as the Nelson family received a quilt for the loss of their son and brother Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb Nelson. Caleb's mother Barbara embraced the quilt and tears began to fall.
After the ceremony, Caleb's father Larry recounted memories of his son and his path in life.
"My wife made a quilt for Caleb that he took with him to basic training, so receiving this quilt is very appropriate," said Larry Nelson. "[Caleb] was very athletic, daring and confident but he was also very tender-hearted. When he walked into the lobby of the church the kids would just flock around him."
"We know that no words can replace the loss that [families of the fallen] have experienced we can only offer our solemn thanks and a commitment to remember," said Rauch "Please know that we are grateful beyond words and owe you a sincere debt of gratitude, as these photos indicate freedom is not free but it is worth fighting for - may we never forget and may we always strive to live a life worthy of sacrifice."
Even though the pain seems unbearable at times for the families of the fallen, it is those people like Melinda Armstrong and Bill and Evonne Williams who are out there making sure that no one forgets their families' sacrifice. To learn more about the Remembering Our Fallen program visit www.rememberingourfallen.org.