Patriotism was on full display as Justin Kane belted out “God Bless the USA.”
Veterans stood, raised their joined hands and waved small American flags in the air as the country artist sang the familiar Lee Greenwood tune during an annual ceremony at the Nebraska State Fair that recognized those who served in the Armed Forces.
Held Monday in the Heartland Events Center, veterans from all the military branches were honored during a program that featured special messages of gratitude for their service.
“We are a special, special group - a group of people that have been called upon to do a duty. We try to do it to the best of our ability. Often times people are hurt but they’ve always answered the call,” Ben Murphy said.
The Grand Island man was a fair grand marshal and was in the United States Navy from 1963 to 1992. He addressed those in attendance and asked the crowd to remember to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who served.
“Any time you meet a veteran, man or woman, please thank them for their service. Without them we would not have a free country,” Murphy said
The audience also heard from state Sen. Tom Brewer, who thanked his fellow veterans saying it does his heart good to walk around the fair and see the different military branches represented. Brewer’s 36-year-long military career started when he enlisted in the Nebraska Army National Guard in 1977. He went on several tours of duty, including to Afghanistan in 2011 when he was severely wounded forcing him into retirement.
Honoring veterans shouldn’t only be held to certain occasions, Brewer said.
“We tend to do it on those special days – Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day. But if you think about the sacrifice that some have made it really should be something that everyone, every day should remember,” he said.
Brewer, of Gordon, also told the veterans that he is fighting for them in the legislature making sure their issues are not ignored.
Kane, a Nebraska native who served in the United States Navy, has performed at many veteran shows. He said he hopes his songs remind people of what America really is about.
“Our nation is one of those where people can come together no matter what race you are, what religion you are, what sex you are, what political preference you have. No matter what it is we as a nation can come together and will always be America strong,” he said.
He also asked the veterans to take care of one another, especially those who have post-traumatic stress disorder. Kane said he suffered from the condition and what helped him was being able to talk about his experience with someone who could understand what he went through.
“If anybody out there is seeing someone you know who is struggling, who needs help, needs guidance, please help them out,” he said.
The program was hosted by Travis Karr, director of veteran and military services at Central Community College, and Angie Lyon, program coordinator of a college transition program called Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership. During the ceremony, two called on veterans who served during different eras and in peace time to stand and be recognized. They also honored prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Karr had one last message for the veterans before closing. He told them that they are not many but they are one.
“Support one another. Look out for each other. We are bound by service together. And remember together we are a legacy, a legacy that continues as an everlasting torch,” he said.