As she spoke of the sacrifices made by veterans and their families, Major Amy Johnson issued a challenge.
She urged those gathered at Trinity Lutheran Church to help veterans and to listen to their stories.
Johnson, a longtime Fremonter, was the keynote speaker at the 15th Annual Veterans Day Program at the Fremont church.
The church sanctuary was full on Friday afternoon as area residents heard Trinity Lutheran School students sing patriotic songs; applauded veterans who stood when their branches of the military were recognized; and watched a poignant and patriotic video while a recording of “Amazing Grace” — played on bagpipes — wafted through the room.
Johnson, who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1992, joined the Nebraska National Guard as a medic in 2004.
Today, she is the public health officer for the 155th Air Refueling Wing in Lincoln, serving one weekend a month and two weeks a year. As a civilian, she’s the administrator at Prairie Fields Family Medicine in Fremont.
Johnson’s son, Quinlan, a fifth-grader at Trinity, introduced his mom to program attendees.
In her talk, Johnson paid tribute to the nation’s veterans, military service members and their families for their sacrifices.
She said those who enlist in the military know their service will be difficult at times and that they may be asked to deploy around the world in a moment’s notice — leaving behind a visible void in within their families and communities.
“They know this service may sometimes take them to extremely dangerous places, such as the muddy World War II hedgerows of Normandy, the snowy mountains of the Korean Conflict, the simmering jungles of Vietnam or the withering heat of Iraq and Afghanistan,” Johnson said.
“And sometimes they know this service will not be appreciated, nor even supported by their fellow Americans, as our Vietnam War veterans know all too well.
“Most of all, they — and their families know — that when they agree to serve in the United States Armed Forces, they are signing a blank check to their nation, a check that may be payable by their very lives, because sometimes serving in the United States military means making the ultimate sacrifice.”
With her words, Johnson verbally painted scenes her listeners could picture in their minds — scenes of flag-covered caskets in which fallen service members are taken to final places of rest.
“Many of us have felt that pain and shed the tears of that loss,” she said. “Many of us here today continue to carry the weight of that loss.”
Johnson talked about setting aside a moment to shake veterans’ hands and thank them for their service, but said she doesn’t think that’s enough.
“Many of you do not think that is enough,” Johnson said. “We can attest to this by the amount of support and participation in the Trinity First Annual Run for Warriors.”
Johnson thanked Ashley Waggy and her committee for making the Nov. 5 event wonderful for veterans and military personnel.
She also challenged her audience — especially its youngest members — to seek out veterans, thank them for their service, to truly listen to their stories and the lessons they’ve learned — “and try somehow to incorporate these lessons into your daily life.”
Johnson went further, telling audience members to find a veteran, help that person and to visit a veterans’ home and volunteer their time.
It will mean a lot to the veteran and that person’s family.
“And I truly believe it will come to mean a lot to you, too,” Johnson said.
Earlier in the program, the Rev. Dan Heuer gave a brief history behind “The Star Spangled Banner” and Trinity Principal Greg Rathke sang the song.
Children in grades kindergarten through second waved small American flags as they sang “I Love This Country” and students in upper grades sang patriotic songs as well. After the program, veterans were asked to stand in a line in the fellowship hall, where they received thanks, handshakes and even some hugs from other program attendees.
Students, young professionals, and local business leaders gathered on the campus of Midland University to talk about creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fremont on Friday.
The Fremont Creative Collective, in partnership with Midland, held their third annual entrepreneurship conference which featured nearly a dozen speakers who shared their various expertise on entrepreneurship, and more specifically developing an ecosystem that supports enterprise.
“In the past it has always been geared toward general entrepreneurship, but this year we have a theme that we are encouraging all of our speakers to speak about and that is an ecosystem,” Brock Ellis, Tech Education Director at Fremont Creative Collective, said in an interview with the Tribune prior to the event. “How can Fremont develop an ecosystem that is attractive and helps small businesses and start-ups not only exist but flourish?”
The conference began at 9:30 a.m. on Friday and featured a variety of speakers throughout the day including local leaders Corey Ruzicka who is Director of Learning at Sycamore Education; Steve Navarette who is a partner at Shaw, Hull, & Navarette; Connie Kreikemeier Executive Director of Personal & Career Development Center at Midland; and Glenn Ellis who is the founder of Sycamore Education and the Fremont Creative Collective.
The conference also brought several professional from the Omaha area, who have expertise in entrepreneurship including Rebecca Stavick who is the executive director of Do Space in Omaha.
Do Space, formerly a Border’s Bookstore located on 72nd & Dodge, was renovated to be a technology library open to the public. They provide free access to the latest software, devices, and ultra-fast internet. They also host many community programs aimed at increasing tech literacy.
“I call it a community technology library,” Stavick said. “There is really nothing quite like it, we have got a maker space, 3-D printers, computers, all the Adobe Creative Suite and all the design tools you would need. We are open 90 hours a week and everything is free, you can get a free membership and use all of our resources.”
Stavick’s hour-long talk focused on making Omaha an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is the most women friendly tech communities in the nation.
“When I say we want to establish Omaha as one of the most women friendly tech community in the nation, that is going to take a hell of a lot of work,” she said. “It is going to take projects, website, interactive online tools, marketing, getting employers involved. If you want to move mountains, then you have to move mountains.”
Stavick stressed surrounding yourself with a community of people that have different skills, as well as helping other people to help yourself, when trying to create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“The fact is the more you guys can rely on each other as a community here in Fremont the better off you will be, the stronger you will be. Because you are going to need people who are good at things, that you are not good at,” she said. “I have a management team and together we run Do Space, and some of my managers are so good at some things that I am really not good at, and that’s perfect. Why would I want to be around a bunch of people just like me, I need a bunch of people in my team giving advice from perspectives that I may not even understand.”
The conference also featured Nathan Preheim, who is the co-founder of the Startup Collaborative in Omaha.
The Startup Collaborative is located in the Exchange Building in the Old Market, and is equal parts company and community building. Their venture is a mixture of a traditional 90-day accelerator, tech incubator and the Greater Omaha Area Chamber of Commerce.
“People look at successful sort of startup titans and say I could never do that, and we completely think that is bogus,” Preheim said. “I would challenge all of you to start thinking about problems, start thinking about opportunities, start thinking about paying points and if and when you are ever ready we are here to help.”
Preheim also talked about how communities like Omaha and Fremont’s advantages when it comes to startup companies, compared to other more notable startup destination such as San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
“I love libivng in Nebraska I think we have some competitive advantages from the startup side,” he said. “First of all cost of living here isn’t that high and we should use that to an advantage and we should endorse that, because your capital goes along ways here.”
He also pointed out the advantages that smaller tight-knit communities like Fremont have when opening a startup company.
“I also like the size of the ecosystem, this area is what I call a two degrees of separation community, and again let’s use it,” he said “You know someone who knows someone, who will absolutely help you and startups are still kind of novel so there is a lot of interest from this area to get behind them, to help them go from concept to scale.”
Vern Gibson has a never-ending supply of memories from his 32-month-long stay in Berlin; which consisted largely of being part of a reconnaissance unit guarding the Berlin Wall.
The wall was erected – cutting the city of Berlin in half east and west – in an effort to prevent people from fleeing from Communist-run East Berlin. The wall would become an active symbol of the Cold War, which lasted an astounding 45 years.
“It separated families,” Gibson said of the wall during Friday’s Veterans Day assembly held at Fremont High School. “For 28 years there were people who never got to see their grandparents, their siblings, because that wall went up pretty much overnight and that was it. You weren’t allowed to have contact with anybody (on opposite sides).
Addressing a large student body, Gibson, who served as an Army Sergeant, told a story involving one of his best friends who married a Berlin woman. Every Sunday, his friend’s wife would go to Checkpoint Charlie – the main gateway between East and West Berlin – just so that she and her father could wave to one another.
“Her father would do that for about 15 years and then finally he passed away, that’s just the way it was,” Gibson said. “Can you imagine having a fence or gate running down Bell Street in Fremont and you could not go on that side of it?”
Gibson, now a funeral director with Dugan Funeral Chapel & Cremation Services, said the wall popped up nearly overnight.
The wall remained intact until Nov. 10, 1989, when it finally toppled.
“It all started with a couple young students that seized the wall and there were guards with guns that were going to shoot them; but this had gone on so long and they knew something was going to happen because people were so frustrated by all this military might,” Gibson said. “And they started chipping away at the wall, and soon the guards on the east side threw their weapons in and gave up and within 12 hours the wall at checkpoint Charlie was down.”
Gibson talked about the Berlin Wall extensively because it had a large impact on him; day-in and day-out he saw the tension and sorrow it caused. Every four years, he and other veterans return to Berlin for a time of reunion and reflection.
“We will be going back next year, and that happens to be the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift,” he said.
He encouraged FHS students to always be appreciative of those serving and those who have served – their lives would be drastically different if it wasn’t for this 1-percent of the population who puts their lives on the line daily for American citizens’ freedoms.
“You just have to remember that all those veterans that have passed on before us is a big reason you can do all the things you do, and have all the freedoms you have,” he said.
Fremont Students participated in the Veterans Day celebration by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance; and listening to the Fremont High School band play “The Star Spangled Banner.” The Fremont High School Girls’ Choir sang “America the Beautiful,” and fallen soldiers were recognized through a moment of silence while TAPS was played by two FHS students.
During some of his final thoughts prior to the assembly’s conclusion, assistant principal Chuck Story told students to keep three things in mind as they left.
“All gave some, some gave all, and freedom is never free,” he said.