July 1, 2015

Wife of fallen Marine gives birth to son

UH1 HueyThe wife of a Nebraska native U.S. Marine who was killed in a helicopter crash in Nepal last month has given birth to his son.

Captain Dustin Lukasiewicz’s wife, Ashley, gave birth earlier this week.  She was pregnant when the 29-year-old from Wilcox deployed to Nepal to deliver supplies after a major earthquake.

Dustin Lukasiewicz’s father, Keith says the family brought the boy home from the hospital on Thursday. Lukasiewicz and his wife also have a daughter, Isabelle.

Lukasiewicz and five other marines died May 12th when their helicopter crashed.  Two Nepalese soldiers were also killed in the crash.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney

A piece of Nebraska lands, once again, on the beaches of Normandy, France

Utah Beach Higgins Memorial/Photo courtesy of Congressional Fortenberry's office

Utah Beach Higgins Memorial/Photo courtesy of Congressional Fortenberry’s office

A tribute to the ingenuity of a Nebraska native now sits on Utah Beach in Normandy, France.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has returned to the United States after participating in the dedication ceremonies for the Utah Beach Higgins Memorial.

The dedication took place during the 71st anniversary celebration of the D-Day invasion, which marked the turning point in World War II.

Andrew Jackson Higgins, a native of Columbus, designed the famous troop carrier and landing craft instrumental on June 6th of 1944 in getting more than 160,000 Allied troops to the 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion that allowed the Allies to gain a foothold on Continental Europe.

President Dwight Eisenhower, Allied Troop Commander at the time, once referred to Higgins as the man who won the war.

The Utah Beach Higgins Memorial was installed late last month next to the U.S. Naval Memorial in Europe in front of the Utah Beach Museum at in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France.

Fortenberry says Nebraskans worked for a year to copy the Utah Beach Higgins Memorial that stands at the entrance of Columbus for the dedication ceremonies.

“It is an exact replica of the Higgins boat as it looks in Columbus with the entry ramp launching three statues of men straight into battle,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “People are naturally drawn to it. It has been called the finest memorial in Normandy and I just couldn’t be prouder.”

A simple design, perhaps. A huge impact on World War II, no doubt.

“This was in honor of all those who fought and died that day, of all the veterans who are still with us,” Fortenberry says. “And it is a real tribute to the hard working, noble people of Columbus and the rest of Nebraska who helped get this done as a gift from America to the people of France in perpetual memory of that great battle that day where civilization actually hung in the balance.”



Sen. Sasse worries about march of ISIS, US response


U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse with the troops during a recent visit to the Middle East

United States Senator Ben Sasse worries about recent gains made by the Islamic State and about the United States’ response.

Sasse says recent events are discouraging.

“The fall of Ramadi and the Anbar province is a really bad sign and Ash Carter, President Obama’s Secretary of Defense, went on the TV talk shows on Sunday morning and said the problem is a lack of the Iraqi will to fight,” Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Sasse says it appears the Iraqi Army turned and ran, even though it outnumbered Islamic State troops.

Sasse says America’s Middle Eastern allies are waiting on the U-S to outline a strategy to respond.

Sasse says the United States simply hasn’t adjusted as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, has taken one main city in Syria after another.

“We know they are trying to establish a long-term base of operation in Syria and in Iraq and it’s not clear to the countries in the Middle East that should be our allies, it’s not clear the U.S. has a long-term strategy,” according to Sasse.

Sasse says it’s evident the current strategy isn’t working, because the Islamic State has been gaining significant ground in Syria.

“We need a long-term strategy and we need this administration to worry less about how they’re going to spin what their legacy ambitions are and more about the fact that the people of Nebraska want to know how we’re going to win the long-term fight against those that would plot jihadist attacks across the world,” Sasse says. “And right now, ISIS is establishing clarity in their region that they have a long-term plan and people don’t think we have a long-term plan.”

Remains of WWII pilot found, returned to Nebraska family

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Alvin Beethe/DoD photo

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Alvin Beethe/DoD photo

The remains of a missing World War II Army pilot have been returned to his Nebraska family for burial with full military honors.

The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Alvin Beethe of Elk Creek were found near where his plane went down close to Morschenich, Germany, about 45 miles south of Dusseldorf.

Beethe had been reported killed in action when his remains were not recovered.

Beethe will be buried June 8th in Arlington National Cemetery, according to the Defense Department.

Beethe was with the 9th Air Force’s 393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group. He was the pilot of a P-38 Lightning aircraft that failed to return from a bombing mission near Duren, Germany on November 26th of 1944, near the end of the war.

A fellow pilot on the mission with Beethe reported Beethe’s plane crashed near Morschenich.

After the war, the American Graves Registration Command searched both for the crash site and the remains of Beethe, but the search proved futile.

In 2008, Defense Department officials got word that private citizens in Germany had located the crash site. A Defense team traveled to the site, then in June of 2013, another Defense team began excavation of the site, recovering both aircraft wreckage and human remains.

The Defense Department reports a detailed scientific method identified the remains of Beethe.

According to the DoD, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic identification tools to include two forms of DNA analysis; mitochondrial DNA, which matched his cousin, and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA, which matched his nephew.

Sixteen million Americans served in World War II. More than 400,000 died. More than 73,000 remain unaccounted for.


Nebraska native confirmed dead in Nepal copter crash

UH1 HueyFamily members of a south central Nebraska native who was on a Marine helicopter that went down while on an earthquake relief mission in Nepal last week have confirmed the man’s death.

Keith Lukasiewicz, the father of Captain Dustin Lukasiewicz, said his family was officially notified of Dustin’s death on Saturday.

The Wilcox native was on a Huey helicopter with five other Marines and two Nepalese soldiers when the chopper went down.

Saturday all eight bodies were found.

The helicopter disappeared Tuesday while delivering aid to victims of the second earthquake to hit Nepal in less than a month.

By Brandon Peoples, KHAS, Hastings