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Student veterans dedicate memorial
May 30, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Courtesy photo - Rob Abreu takes a moment of silence at the Fallen Hero Memorial Monday at WNCC. Abreu was a Veterans Upward Bound participant and is a past president of the Student Veterans Organization.

Outside the main entrance to Western Nebraska Community College stands a block of granite. Atop is a bronze casting of a pair of combat boots, rifle, helmet and dog tags, called a “battlefield cross.”

One of the speakers at the Memorial Day dedication was Gary Alkire, WNCC Dean of Instruction and Vietnam veteran.

“The battlefield cross signifies long years of tradition – the sacrifice of death and blood and pain in other corners of the world that sometimes go unnoticed,” he said. “It’s good to reflect on the debt we owe to our veterans, those gone and those who survive.”

He said the marker also represents a group of men and women, the Student Veterans Organization, who are building a tradition at the college. The group, formed in 2009, has been working toward creating a Fallen Heroes Memorial, dedicated to all the fallen soldiers from the Panhandle area.

“The men and women in our present-day military did not follow blind devotion or ill-conceived images of nationalism and mastery, nor are they compelled into national service,” Alkire said. “They are clear-eyed and level-headed volunteers who take an oath of service and stand by their pledge to the moment of death.”

Also speaking at the ceremony was U.S. Senator Deb Fischer. “Today, we’re reminded of the great courage and valor of the fallen service men and women,” she said. “These boots, rifle and helmet cast in bronze represent the collective sacrifice of those who have paid the highest price for our freedom. The Nebraskans we honor today not only believed in the idea of freedom, they died for it. Let us never forget the meaning behind this day and to this memorial or take for granted the freedom that Americans continue to enjoy because of the courage and sacrifice of our fallen heroes.”

U.S. Representative Adrian Smith of Gering also spoke during the dedication ceremony. “A sculpture like this reminds us of all the sacrifice made on our behalf,” he said. “No speech I can make or vote I can cast in Washington could adequately express my gratitude.”

He added it’s the diversity of stories of so many veterans and their reasons for serving that make this country strong.

As the Fallen Heroes was unveiled, there was a wreath laying ceremony by Gold Star mothers and fathers.
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