January 30, 2015

Former Nebraska Sen. Hagel says good-bye to Pentagon

Chuck Hagel speaks during farewell ceremony at Pentagon/Photo courtesy of Defense Department

Chuck Hagel speaks during farewell ceremony at Pentagon/Photo courtesy of Defense Department

Former Nebraska United States Sen. Chuck Hagel has bid farewell to the Pentagon, sent out as Secretary of Defense with fanfare and best wishes from President Barack Obama.

Obama declared Hagel a “great friend” and declared him a patriot during a special ceremony at the Pentagon.

“In an era of politics that too often descends into spectacle, you’ve always served with decency and dignity. And in a town of outsized egos, you’ve never lost your Midwestern humility,” Obama told Hagel during the ceremony.

Hagel, a Republican, served two terms in the United States Senate.

Obama chose him as Secretary of Defense in 2013.

Department of Defense photo

Department of Defense photo

Reports circulated in Washington that Hagel clashed with members of the president’s National Security Council and chafed under what he perceived as the micromanaged of the White House of Defense.

“You’ve always been frank and honest and said what you thought. I have so profoundly benefited from that candor,” Obama stated.

Obama mentioned the first time he met Hagel, 10 years ago when Obama joined Hagel on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I’m grateful to Chuck on a very personal level,” Obama said. “I was new and green, you were a veteran legislator. I was the student, and you shared some lessons of your service.”

Proposals hope to make Nebraska veteran-friendly

Sen. Sue Crawford speaks to reporters during a Capitol news conference

Sen. Sue Crawford speaks to reporters during a Capitol news conference with fellow senators in the background

A number of measures are being proposed this legislative session, aimed at retaining and attracting military veterans to Nebraska.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue says many of those measures take direct aim at those now serving at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.

“Retain those veterans who work at Offutt, who are stationed at Offutt, encourage them when they retire to stay here, but also to actually go out to other states and recruit veterans here,” Crawford tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The proposals, sponsored by a variety of state lawmakers, take on a variety of issues. Still, many deal with veteran pocket book issues, such as exempting military pensions from the state income tax, creating voluntary hiring preferences for veterans, and providing a wage subsidy for unemployed veterans. Another even seeks to increase the health care choices for veterans.

While the measures would benefit veterans living throughout the state, they are intended to entice those stationed at Offutt to consider staying here after they retire.

Crawford says military families often are first introduced to Nebraska when stationed at Offutt.

“So, I here sometimes military families talk about they came to Offutt kicking and screaming,” Crawford says with a laugh. “But then they come to Offutt and they experience our schools and I’ve had military families tell me, sometimes, this is the first state where they’ve had their children in public schools. So, they come and they see the quality of life here.”

Crawford says it’s important to retain those stationed at Offutt as well as attract military veterans from other states.

In 2014, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Nebraska Department of Labor, Nebraska’s community colleges and several employers to create “The Good Life for Veterans” initiative to recruit those leaving the military to move to Nebraska to start a second career.

Since its creation, “The Good Life for Veterans” has had a presence at three career fairs at Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Carson, Colorado, reaching over 1,000 veterans and military members, according to the Chamber.

Nebraska Air Guard deployed to Middle East

Nebraska National Guard Joint Force headquarters in Lincoln

Nebraska National Guard Joint Force headquarters in Lincoln

The war in Afghanistan might have officially been declared over, but Nebraska Air National Guard personnel are still being deployed to the Middle East.

Fifty members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing have been deployed to the region.

The Guard personnel are members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing. It will be a six-month deployment.

The airmen and women come from the 155th Security Forces Squadron, the 155th Force Support Squadron and 155th Civil Engineer Squadron. They are based in Lincoln.

The 155th Operations Group will also deploy, but for a shorter, one-month mission.

Nebraska Air Guard to deploy to Middle East Monday

Nebraska Air National Guard Joint Force Headquarters

Nebraska Air National Guard Joint Force Headquarters

About 50 members of the Nebraska Air National Guard will deploy to the Middle East on Monday.

The Guard personnel are members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing. It will be a six-month deployment.

A private ceremony for family and friends has been planned for Monday afternoon at the Nebraska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Lincoln.

The airmen and women come from the 155th Security Forces Squadron, the 155th Force Support Squadron and 155th Civil Engineer Squadron. They are based in Lincoln.

The 155th Operations Group deploys afterward for a one-month mission.

Nebraska veterans encouraged to enroll in registry

sample-dl_2[1]First, Nebraska veterans had the chance to get a special driver’s license. Next, they can get a special license plate.

Gov. Dave Heineman says more than 12,000 veterans have enrolled in the Nebraska Veterans’ Registry, created last year by the Unicameral to place the word “veteran” on their driver’s licenses.

In 2016, Military Honor License Plates will be made available.

“There are approximately 140,000 veterans. That number represents a lot of years of sacrifice to our country,” Heineman tells reporters during a conference calls. “Adding a veterans’ designation to the driver’s licenses or Military Honor Plate provides a public symbol of gratitude for their service.”

Nearly 2,700 veterans have received the veteran designation on their driver’s licenses, including the governor himself.

“This designation is one way of saying thank you to the veterans all across Nebraska who have served in the armed forces,” says Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles Director Rhonda Lamb. “The designation has been applied to the documents of veterans in 85 of the 93 counties in Nebraska. The Department of Motor Vehicles is proud to have been a part of this process.”

Nebraska chose to house the Registry within Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs. That move allows the veteran information not only to be used by the DMV, but also for veteran outreach or to apply for veteran benefits.

“So, we might be able to do outreach as we’ve never done before as well as saying thank you by the designation on the driver’s license ID as well as the honor plates coming up,” says Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director John Hilgert

To enroll, veterans can contact the Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs online, in person, or via email.

The website is www.veterans.nebraska.gov . The phone number is 402-471-2458. The email address is ndva@nebraka.gov.