Nebraska and Iowa service personnel have given their lives in wartime in locations all over the Earth: in the air, on snow-covered hillsides, in thick jungle, amid churning seas, in wind-swept deserts. Today our nation offers its thanks to all those, from the Midlands and all parts of the U.S., who have given that immense sacrifice out of duty to country.
Here are just a few examples from Nebraska and Iowa.
» World War I. The 1919 edition of the Cornhusker, the student yearbook, listed University of Nebraska men killed during the conflict. Among them: William Alexander Cone, whose entry states: “a member of the 356th Infantry, 89th Division. The details regarding his death are lacking except for a Government telegram stating, ‘Killed in action, November 11, 1918.’ He was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Cone, of Wymore, Nebraska.”
» World War II. Service personnel perish on the battlefront but also on other fronts. The largest military air disaster in Nebraska history occurred on Aug. 2, 1944, when 28 men with the U.S. Army Air Force died in the crash of a C-47 transport plane in Boyd County. The plane had left Bruning Army Airfield in Thayer County and was heading north to an Army airfield in Pierre, South Dakota. The dead included two native Nebraskans and twin brothers from California. A memorial cross marks the location of the crash, and a state historical marker notes this tragic event.
» Korean War. Army Sgt. John R. Rice, a native of Winnebago, Neb., served with distinction in fighting in South Korea. He was killed in battle on Sept. 6, 1950. His interment in a private Sioux City, Iowa, cemetery was underway when an official there, learning that Rice was Native American, invoked a “Caucasians only” clause in the cemetery’s bylaws. Rice’s widow, Evelyn, refused to sign a document saying he was white. President Harry Truman intervened and offered a plot at Arlington National Cemetery. Rice’s burial there followed, and Evelyn Rice was later buried there. In a ceremony in 2005, Sioux City leaders publicly apologized to Rice’s family and presented them a War Eagle Human Rights Award in honor of Evelyn Rice.
» Vietnam War. In a 2017 Veterans Day ceremony at Loomis High School in Phelps County, the school awarded a diploma to the late Willmer Matson, who attended the school in the 1960s. He was drafted in 1969 and killed in March 1970. Three years earlier he had gone through graduation ceremonies but was given a certificate of attendance rather than a diploma. Matson’s classmates, in planning their 50th high school reunion, asked the local school board to recognize him by awarding him a posthumous diploma. The board approved.
» Iraq War. Omaha officials in 2010 dedicated a section of Webster Street in Omaha between 38th and 40th Streets for Army Spc. Adam Herold, who was killed in combat in 2007 in Iraq. He was 23. He attended the nearby grade school, St. Cecilia. The dedication of the street “reminds people of the ultimate sacrifice he has made and all the other soldiers have made,” said Kyle Herold, one of Adam’s older brothers.
Today is a day, indeed, to remember the ultimate sacrifice of these and other American military personnel.