Michelle Waite, Assistant to the Chancellor for Government and Military Relations, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented plans for a Veterans's Tribute on the university's main campus in downtown Lincoln to Seward Rotary to close out 2020. (Photo courtesy University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Michelle Waite, Assistant to the Chancellor for Government and Military Relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented the program at Seward Rotary on December 30, 2020, which was held on Zoom.  She was introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman, December program chair.
Ms. Waite first provided a history of the Veteran’s Tribute Project, pointing out that the University of Nebraska is involved with this Veterans’ Tribute as part of UNL's status as a Land Grant Institution, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.  That legislation donated land to each state for the establishment of colleges to provide a liberal and practical education to the industrial class or the common person.  These colleges would provide instruction in agriculture, military tactics, the mechanic arts and classical studies. 
The Tribute project began with a request by John Hilgert, the State Director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, almost three years ago, to celebrate the Centennial of the end of WWI and Armistice Day.  The University of Nebraska has traditionally celebrated with a tribute to veterans at the home football game around Veteran’s Day, and centered on various ideas of ways to enhance that football game day experience. 
At the same time, members of the community also hoped to enhance Memorial Stadium and renovate Memorial Mall in honor of the state's veterans. Several suggestions were received, and after significant research, it was decided to attempt to find and replicate the original plaques that were supposedly mounted at the original entrance of the East Stadium to honor the 113 students who fought in WWI.  An outcome of the creation of these plaques was a continued interest in honoring all the members of the military, veterans and their families. 
Ms. Waite pointed out that the end result of all of these efforts resulted in the Veterans’ Tribute. With the Chancellor’s commitment  to the project support was provided to contract with a design team who assisted in the design of the Tribute. Input on the design was also received from various members of the military and veterans, military organizations and student veterans. The Tribute will be located just outside of the south steps adjacent to the Pershing Military and Navel Science Building, with the design moving west alongside the building east of the coliseum.   The “Tribute” will honor veterans, members of the military and their families, illustrating the multiple facets of a service members’ life, including the important of family, faith and camaraderie, while also depicting the personal sacrifice that the military service entails, with a focus on the positive attributes and humanitarian missions.
She presented a power point presentation, focusing on the proposed design of the Veteran’s Tribute, showing the proposed design on the steps at the front of the ROTC building-featuring a flag plaza, performance and staging and formation area.  She noted that the panels on the Veterans’ Tribute design are modeled after the American Veterans’ Disabled for Life Memorial w/glass panels that depict the life of a service member and their family.  She personally visited the AVDLM memorial in Washington DC and visited with DAV representatives. Since early summer, the committee has been soliciting input for the text of the panels from veterans and members of the military and families.  
The projected project model showed plantings, and seating areas, meant to create a space that will be used for education, reflection, rest and study.  Located just east of memorial stadium, directly adjacent to the Athletic Hall of Fame, the project encourages and welcomes the foot traffic of nearly 90,000 Husker football fans.
The current fundraising campaign is now focusing on educating the public about this project, as they undertake a fundraising effort for its construction, with a $4.5 million total cost /fundraising goal, including the $3.75 of construction costs.  She noted that the conceptual design is complete, yet construction has paused in light of Covid.  The committee continues to refine input on the panel content and continues with fundraising efforts.  
For more information on the project, contact Michelle Waite at mwaite1@unl.edu