One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, as Armistice Day to mark the first anniversary of the peace treaty that ended World War I. From that point forward, Armistice Day became an annual commemoration of America’s World War I veterans. Congress officially declared Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938. Sixty-five years ago, in 1954, President Eisenhower renamed the holiday as Veterans Day to extend recognition to all U.S. veterans.

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to express gratitude to many of our state’s heroic veterans. Last week, I was on hand as the Consul General of France awarded a Nebraska veteran — Ed Morrissette — with the French Legion of Honor. The honor recognized Morrissette for his brave actions to liberate France from Nazi German occupation. Morrissette landed on Omaha Beach 75 years ago on D-Day, dodging machine-gun fire to help the Allies gain a foothold in Normandy. Prior to deploying to mainland Europe, Morrissette already had served in military campaigns in North Africa and Sicily during World War II. While in North Africa, he shot down a German Messerschmitt 109 fighter, and he later received a Bronze Star for his valor in combat.

On the actual anniversary of D-Day in June, I visited the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home in Bellevue to present award certificates to 24 World War II veterans residing there. It was a stirring sight to see the faces of Nebraskans, now well into their 90s, who had fought on the front lines to defend American freedoms from the Nazi regime. While I am on a trade mission to Germany next week, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley will be in Kearney at the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home for the unveiling of the Reflections of Service sculpture. The life-size bronze statute, which will be dedicated Monday, pays tribute to veterans by poignantly depicting their memories of combat and desires for peace.

It’s fitting that we thank our veterans by bestowing honors, building statues and hosting parades. But we also can repay their service by enacting laws and policies to better meet their day-to-day needs. My administration has taken a number of steps to make Nebraska a more friendly and welcoming home for our military families and veterans. One of our biggest areas of focus during the past couple of years has been giving our military families easier access to education and job opportunities. We adopted a new rule to enable military spouses to receive a three-year teaching permit in Nebraska with a valid out-of-state license. We passed legislation so that military families reassigned to Nebraska can preliminarily enroll in a school district.

We expanded the hiring preference in Nebraska to include spouses of service members. We enacted a law to allow active duty military members or their spouses to be licensed realtors in Nebraska without paying a licensing fee, provided they have a valid license from another state. We also entered into the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to have one multi-state license. This makes it easier for military spouses to begin work in nursing after moving to our state. Through these initiatives, and a host of others, the state of Nebraska is thanking our veterans in practical ways.

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