Military and Memorials

2014 Memorial Day in Nebraska

Today across Nebraska many celebrations in honor of the true meaning of Memorial Day are taking place.  Each link below contains several options – some will be more patriotic than others!

Central Nebraska (including the “1894 Memorial Day Celebration” at Stuhr Museum)


Southeast Nebraska

Fort McPherson National Cemetery (Maxwell)

Many local area cemeteries will be having honorary events.  Please check with your community to see what is happening near you!  Know of any in particular?  Please post them on the Odyssey Through Nebraska Facebook Page.


Wyuka Honor Circle

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

-Katherine Lee Bates-


Categories: Annual Events, Frontier Trails, Lincoln, Metro, Military and Memorials, Prairie Lakes, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Flashback: Displaying Nebraskans in World War Two: Exhibit Closing Soon at the Nebraska History Museum

Writing about Nebraska’s part in World War 2 has been a part of upcoming blog post plans.  But I had to accelerate the timing due to the fact that I found out the Nebraska History Museum is closing this formerly permanent exhibit.

photo of World War II living room exhibit

Photo taken directly from Nebraska History site

Now they have their reasons, and they are pretty good ones.  Due to increased funding, they are doing some restructuring. Here is the official announcement that I received in an e-mail from the Nebraska State Historical Society.  (No, I did not receive special notice – I am simply a part of their e-mail list! 🙂

“What Did You Do in the War? Nebraska in World War II” will close to the public on Sunday, March 2, 2014. Artifacts in the Nebraska History Museum exhibit in Lincoln will be stored away and exhibit components disassembled as the museum prepares for a major infrastructure renovation funded by the Nebraska Legislature. The museum at 131 Centennial Mall North ( 15th & P Streets) in Lincoln is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 1:00-4:30 p.m.  Closed state holidays. Admission is free.

 A variety of resources about Nebraska in World War II is available on the Nebraska State Historical Society website, including articles from Nebraska History Magazine, veterans’ stories, photographs, a newspaper aimed at 4th-graders, a teacher’s guide, and more. Visit and type World War II into the search box.  

 For more information call 402-471-4782 or visit

We actually used many of the Nebraska State Historical Society’s resources to have our own “Living out World War 2 in Nebraska” day last spring.  In an upcoming post, I will share what our family did to learn more about those who lived here during the mid-century war.  For now, I simply wanted to encourage you to check out this great World War 2 exhibit.  This area has been a favorite one for my kids to explore every time we visit.   Hopefully we will make it back one last time before the display is gone.

Categories: Family Outings, Flashback Fridays, Lincoln, Metro, Military and Memorials, Nebraska History, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Officer’s Quarters at Fort Robinson in Northwest Nebraska (Thank you, military!)

At first writing about Fort Robinson as being a place to be home for the holidays might seem a bit odd.  After all, other than possibly being open for their annual December historical Christmas dinner, Fort Robinson State Park is basically closed from November through March.  So, the officer’s quarters are shut for the winter.  No holiday decorating taking place in these homes from time past.

Fort Robinson Officer's House

A view of one of the officer’s quarters from a distance.

Yet as I have seen “commercials” on this Christmas, I became more and more convinced that this needed to be my focus today.  You know the video clips where military families from overseas send their greetings?  The ones that often bring tears to my eyes.  Where soldiers and often their families are far from the U.S., so that we can be home for the holidays?  Where we are living in relative peace and safety, and where they are choosing to forgo that privilege, at least for a season.

The setting would have been similar back when these Fort Robinson officer quarters were occupied over one hundred years ago.  The soldiers may have been at “home” for the holidays, yet they were far from their original dwellings to protect the peace of a fledgling frontier.  Sacrificing comfort and security to provide those very things for others.

Tomorrow I will write more about the quarters and the soldiers that called them home.  But for today, I just wanted to say thank you.  To our military, thank you for serving our country and for fighting to ultimately win peace on earth.  Thank you for sacrificing your freedom to provide that very thing that you currently lack.  After all, is there any better time to be grateful than this season?  That first Christmas a young couple were also far from home.  Their sojourn and birth of their son would provide me with the opportunity to find ultimate freedom.  Another undeserved gift and sacrifice.

As I ponder all of this that has been given to me, I cannot help but think of a song that I heard again last night.  The one that, according to Ace Collins in The Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, was written during the midst of war.  1942 – a time when this nation was longing to have hope that conflict would soon be over.  A meaningful song still today as it reminds us to pray that someday everyone will get to be home for the holidays.


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Beyond the Husker Game: Other Lincoln events (Civil War Remembrance Day)

Tuesday is the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Today also happens to be Civil War Remembrance Day.  In Lincoln, The Nebraska State History Museum is featuring a special family day.  If you enjoy interacting with history, they have some great events planned for you.


For even more information (and for possibly a clearer picture), please check out the Facebook page that was created for the event.  This is all happening on Saturday November 16th from 2-4.  Always worthwhile to remember those who have fought on behalf of our country!

Categories: Annual Events, Lincoln, Metro, Military and Memorials, Nebraska History, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful for Nebraska Veterans and Those Beyond …

SAS flag quilt

11-11 Row of Flags

Thankful for veterans that are a part of my life ….

Papa G. (my father-in-law)

Dennis, Jed, Daniel, Ray, Anthony, Jeremy, Marty, Devan, Justen &Chris AND your families who also have paid their part for freedom!

And to those no longer here: My Grandpa Gus and my Grandpa Michels – I miss you.  Thanks for telling me enough stories that I appreciate what veterans have done!

And thank you to those who I have never met but have still fought on our behalf.

Today and every day, we are grateful for your sacrifice!

11-11 Flags

11-11 Veteran's Day Poem

11-11 Thankful


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Flashback Friday: How the Strategic Air Command and General LeMay Found Their Way to Nebraska

Hard to believe that just over a century ago flying was a novelty.  In fact World War One was really the first occasion when flying played a role.  Then really airplanes were only used as reconnaissance.  By the mid century mark, jets  could be seen across the skies.  The army air force pilots changed the course of World War 2.  On September 16th, 1947, the Air Force branch of the armed services officially began.  Nebraska would play a part in the beginning operations of this branch of service.

A series of transitions would occur for this involvement to take place.  According to Nebraska State Historical Society Air Force Records, the area now near Bellevue played many roles in United States military history.

This plant was formerly the main assembly building of the
Glenn L. Martin-Nebraska Bomber Plant, 10 miles south of Omaha.
Air Defense Command assumed command of Fort Crook in 1946 and
merged with Offutt Air Force Base. The aircraft plant was re-activated in Oct. 1946 and production started in March, 1947.

So, Fort Crook to a bomber plant to an extensive air force base.

An aerial photograph of Offutt Air Field in 1936 before it became a base.

Within a year of becoming a base, on November 9th, 1947, Offutt Air Force base found itself with a new title: headquarters for the Strategic Air Command.  This was a new era in fighting – the cold war and potential for nuclear bombs.  To keep operations safe from long range missiles, the location needed to be in the central part of the continent.  Protected from potential dangers.  (Bombers had a shorter reach back then.)

SAS SAC sign

The strategic air command was primarily was responsible for deliberate (strategic) land bombing.   Showing enough force to keep the threatening forces away.  One man had the most influence toward the direction that the S.A.C. would take.  General Curtis LeMay oversaw the Berlin Airlift, the initial step in halting the progress of communism.  He was a natural fit to lead the relatively new organization for nine years and transformed the soldiers into trained men.  Initially they were a bit rough around the edges, for example, missing their targets by a few miles during a mock nuclear test.  LeMay’s goal to build up the men and the bases into a viable threat kept communism and Stalin on the defensive, instead of the offensive.

LeMay also did his part to transform the town of Bellevue.  With only 1500 residents and one paved street at last mid-century, today the town boasts almost 50,000 people (and a network of maintained roads 🙂  )  General LeMay was known to be demanding, but it was his fierce love for those under his command that motivated progress.

LeMay also is the one who started the first Strategic Air and Space Museum, locating the displays at the Offutt Air Force Base.  He wanted the public to be able to view that airplanes that helped to maintain peace during the uncertainty during the 1950’s Cold War period.  In 1998, the airplanes and artifacts moved to a new location halfway between Lincoln and Omaha.  Allowing airplanes to be displayed and restored, this new location has encouraged new heights for all of the aircraft of this conflicted era. (Plus if you read, my blog posts from yesterday, you know how many additional purposes this museum provides!)

SAS by Mahoney

You can see the Mahoney State Park tower and flag just over the hill from the Strategic Air and Space Museum.  Their site halfway between Lincoln and Omaha is easily accessible.

If you are interested in learning more about the Strategic Air Command  program or about General LeMay, please click on one of the many links that are below or are mentioned in this article.

The Strategic Air Command (site is a  work in progress) (“Peace is our Profession)

SAC photos and documentation

Offutt Air Force Base Wikipedia Article

Strategic Air Command – the classic movie starring Jimmy Stewart (based on true events)

Categories: Flashback Fridays, Military and Memorials, Nebraska History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Families in Flight: The Strategic Air and Space Museum for Kids & Parents

As if seeing airplanes up close and personal was not enough, the Strategic Air and Space Museum has all sorts of options and activities available that are specifically geared for children and families.  For one, they frequently bring in special exhibits with an educational slant.  (More on their MathAlive! current exhibit in another entry).  Here are just a few ways that the museum caters to children …

Whether you have just a few minutes

SAS simulators

Various army “vehicles” for the young ones to try and flight simulators for older children.  Put your child in motion for a small fee.

Or you have all day …

For only five dollars, you can enjoy the museum’s space shuttle slide and bouncer.  (Members are free).

SAS bouncy slide and plane

You can see a glimpse of the tall slide behind one of the airplanes.

Or maybe you have all night …

SAS Night at the museum

Groups of 75-150 youths can sleep the night away under a plane!  (1 adult for every 5 kids is required).  Besides touring and interacting with museum exhibits, overnight guests will also have a snack and watch a movie.  Cost is generally $15 per adult and $25 per child.  This option is a great one for Scout groups.


Flying High on your birthday …

Ages 3-14 can choose to celebrate their birthday in “plane” style and various party options are available including over the moon, cadet, ace and top gun packages.   Prices vary and are substantially cheaper for members.

SAS Science Zone

The Science Zone is open right now on the week-ends as another great family friendly option!

Still not enough to do?  A variety of field trips are available year round.   You should also check out their summer camps and scouting and merit badge programs.  And if you cannot make it to the museum, the museum will come to you.  With its mobile observatory and outreach laboratory and cool science to go, the museum’s goal is to make science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) more accessible to children.

If you want to know more about how S.A.C. came to Nebraska, stay tuned for my Flashback Friday tomorrow.  And I will be posting an entry all about their current featured exhibit, MathAlive! a little bit later on this afternoon.  (By the way, normally the Strategic Air and Space Museum operates a planetarium.  But due to the extensiveness of the math exhibit, the planetarium will not be operational until January when the traveling display is done.)

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Strategic Air and Space Museum: High Flying in Nebraska

SAS outside

Name/Location Strategic Air & Space Museum: Exit 426 between Lincoln & Omaha: Ashland
Open hours/Contacts 10-5 daily; (800) 358.5029; Facebook Page
Cost Adults: $12; Retired/active military: $11; Children ages 4-12: $6: Free to members
What to Know This is a very large museum with so much on display.  Allow several hours to begin to see all of the displays; wheelchair accessible.
Group Tours Tours; daily public ones at 11 a.m.; private for groups of 20+ with discounted rates (all money collected at once); 2 weeks notice needed
Museum Manners Some planes can be boarded – some cannot.  Large space where children may want to run but hard surfaces prevail (concrete & more)
Recommended Ages Planes for any age but do bring a stroller – lots of space to cover for little ones.  The featured exhibits are usually for school age children

Despite being a civilian, I have flown in a military plane before.  Thanks to the military program that gets educators up in the air, I got to experience flying above a stealth plane as it was refueled.  An amazing experience.  But I will confess that while I enjoy seeing the planes, I can tell you very little about them, other than that they fly.

SAS copter and plane

The educator in me desperately wants to be able to identify every plane by its name and characteristics.  The pragmatist in me knows that this would take a lot of time.  (Plus the chance of me being inaccurate is rather high.)  I was definitely relieved to discover that the museum identifies all of the airplanes on their website.  But I have to say that while this information is helpful, the facts are still a poor substitute for experiencing the planes themselves.

SAS glimpses of planes

With over 300,000 square feet of display space, you can walk among these giants of flight and envision what an experience flying them must have been.  Or if you are like me, you imagine being the person riding in the jumpseat.  (To be responsible for such a large flying machine would make me too nervous!)

SAS Air Force Plane 0198

Since you may not be able to drop everything and go today, here are some more photographs that document why you should feel compelled to visit soon!

SAS interior rocket view

The museum architecture adds a dimension of beauty to the displays.

SAS line of planes

And oh, the possibilities to explore from one hangar …

SAS hanger display

To the other hangar!

SAS fan propellers

Even the ceiling fans have propeller blades!

SAS flag quilt

Reflections of patriotism intertwine throughout the museum.  More on that in another post someday!

SAS tomcat

Pretty sure this would not look as cute if you were on the other end of it!

SAS apollo

And you can view parts of NASA history as well. 

While these airplanes may no longer be accessible by flight (no nearby landing strip!), the drive to see them is definitely worth it!  This post just featured the airplane aspects of the Strategic Air and Space Museum.  In my next post, I will be exploring the educational opportunities that the museum has for families and children!

P.S. If you did not guess where we were yesterday that might have been the fact that I mixed in both pictures of their permanent and featured exhibits.  In another blog post I will be telling about their incredible new featured exhibit.  The school subject that enters into everyday life in surprising ways!  By the way, a big thank you to my friend, Alicia!  She was the one who accompanied me on this quick photo op and gave some great suggestions as to shots that I needed to take!

Categories: Metro, Military and Memorials, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Museum of the Fur Trade near Chadron, Nebraska: Part 3

Canoe overhead at Fur Trade Museum

Life is looking up at the Museum of the Fur Trade.

Place at a Glance

Name/Location Museum of the Far Trade(located just east of Chadron, NE on Highway 20)
Website/Facebook Museum of the Fur Trade; Museum of the Fur Trade on Facebook
Open hours Open May-October from 8-5 daily; off-season by appointment
What to Know Request a scavenger hunt (picture or word versions) to engage kids
Cost Children age 18 and under are free; adults are $5;
Group Tours Educational tours are a possibility; small groups are probably ideal
Museum Manners Limited tactile opportunities, although there are plenty of places to explore;Fragile objects are on display – no running or touching most display objects
Recommended Ages Ideally for ages 8 and up, although certain parts would appeal to all

Before our trip to the Museum of the Fur Trade near Chadron, Nebraska, I could have told you the basics about the fur trade.  Trappers, Indians, supplies, beads.  After our outing, I can tell you that there is SO much that I do not know.  I had no idea just how far reaching the fur trade was.  About how many cultures and kingdoms this type of commerce has impacted.  In fact, I am feeling rather cautious about typing factual information for fear of being way off base.  So, I will share bits and pieces of what we saw and what I began to learn and hopefully do so with accuracy.  Anything more and you will need to visit for yourself.  (Which I highly recommend!)

Fur trader picture

A well done representation of a fur trader in a seeded frame (evidently these type of frames were popular long ago!)

My initial impressions: fur traders were rough, tough, strong and hardy man.  They were not scared of adventure.  Or hardship.  Or weather.  Okay – maybe they had moments of fear.  But they still went on anyway, not knowing what to expect.  Travel and Escape has posted the Canadian Film Board’s classic movie on the “Voyageurs” that is playing at the museum.  (My boys sat there and watched it through almost two full times before we left the museum!)  Trappers would trade for tools, and traders would trade furs for goods.  A beneficial cycle for everyone.  Mostly.  Unless greed or dishonesty was involved (which had to occur sometimes!)

bear skin

The only place I have seen where having a bear skin on the wall looked perfectly natural.

One thing I did learn: much of the trading involved guns.  The museum strives to have the most complete “trader” guns collection possible.  So, they annually attend the larger gun shows to continue to keep up their stock.

Fur trade gun collection

Although I will never be a hunter, I have to say I was impressed with their display!

gun snake insignia

Many of the traded guns had the snake insignia on the back, per the Native American’s request.  That was the symbol they wanted to see.

Red Cloud gun

This is the documented gun of Red Cloud, one of several guns “collected” that were actually used by others and where the story behind the gun is known.

Why is this museum so well done?  They have had the same curator/director for 17 years.  Gail DeBuse Potter is meticulous about detail and is so incredibly knowledgeable about the fur trade and antiquities.  (In fact, I missed getting to see parts of the museum as in-depth as I would have enjoyed because I was talking to her for so long.  Fascinating woman!)  She is recording details that have never been documented and compiled before and is overseeing the project of compiling several volumes of fur trade history.

Fur Trade Museum Display

One example of a wall display.  Hard to take great pictures due to the low lighting that is necessary to preserve the objects.

The other main factor that makes this museum unique: collections were acquired deliberately, as opposed to an “object donation” only basis.  Since the museum is writing down the history, they are compiling items and memorabilia that best reflect the events that occurred in the past.  Due to monetary donations and other acquisitions, the museum has been able to stay very purposeful.


Fur trade Native American collection

A sample of the Native American collection.

Director Potter does feel that the focus of the museum is more for adults.  Yet because of the immensity and variety of collections, as well as the outdoor displays, my children loved the museum.  She did give my boys a picture scavenger hunt to complete which helped them to really hunt through the displays, and then there was even small prizes at the end.

Lewis & Clark nickels

The boys each got a commemorative Lewis & Clark nickel for completing the hunt.  (And a small coloring book too!)  I am not sure what she hands out to larger groups.

So, while the focus is not children, they will still have a great time.  My youngest two missed out on this event, but even at 4 and 6, I think they would have enjoyed seeing all of the displays.  I know that my oldest two thought that this was one of the best museums ever!

boys at Fur Trade Museum


Categories: Blue Star Museum, Flashback Fridays, Nebraska History, Nebraska Passport, Panhandle, Passport Pursuit Programs, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flashback Friday: Life at a Trader Post (Museum of the Fur Trade: Part 2)

The unexpected part of our visit to the Museum of  the Fur Trade near Chadron?  Being able to walk around a replicated trading post area.  The museum was built on the site of a former fur trading post, adding authenticity to the feel.  Many historical events were influenced by Trader James Bordeaux and impacted by this site that served as a satellite trading post at one time for nearby Fort Laramie.

Fur Trade Trading Post sign

(Bordeaux Trading Post text)

Behind the museum building, they carefully reconstructed the post in 1956 using the original footprints as a guideline.

Soft dugout picture

This view of the dugout is almost camouflaged into the hillside.

National Historic Place Fur Trade

Their re-creation of the post was completed so authentically that the place is now on the National Register of Historical Places.  This award is normally only given for original buildings, not reconstructed ones.

Dugout picture

Whenever I see a dugout, I can imagine a cow stepping through the roof.  Or even worse a snake slithering in.  This had to be a real possibility.  After all, this sign was prominently posted in the dugout.  I doubt life has changed that much!

fur trade rattlesnake sign

I was not disappointed when we did not see any rattlesnakes!

Trading Post interior

While the building may have been small, many activities took place inside.

fur trade post interior

You can peer through panes at items that might have been for sale at a post.

fur trade post living quarters

You can also see a glimpse of what the “living quarters” for the traders might have resembled.  And yes, furs were probably involved in the furnishings.

dugout view

The adjacent creek is almost visible over the hill.  A nearby water source was essential for life on the prairie.

dugout storage shed

Nearby the dugout, a storage shed was built to demonstrate how they would have had to hoard  stock supplies to have enough for trading.

supplies for the fur trader

Replicas of the goods needed to trade.

fur press

Even back then, space was at a premium.  This is an example of a fur press that they would have used to compact the furs before shipping.

tipi fastener

Also re-created on the grounds is the tipi used by the the Brulé Sioux Indians who would have been the primary people to use this post.

Kyle and boys inside the tepee

Taking a break from the hot summer sun, although the tipi felt warm due to the lack of breeze inside.

tipi view

A room with a view.

Indian Heirloom Garden

The staff at the museum annually plant an Indian heirloom garden, continuing to grow plants that have been around for centuries.  (Here is a list of the Heirloom plants growing in the Indian Garden). And if you also have a hankering for hidatsa beans or little blue corn, packets of seeds are for sale inside the museum.

Pine Ridge Bluffs

The beautiful setting for what ended up to be one of our favorite places on our Nebraska panhandle trip.  The Pine Ridge Bluffs near Chadron and the Museum of the Fur Trade.

Categories: Blue Star Museum, Flashback Fridays, Nebraska History, Nebraska Passport, Panhandle, Passport Pursuit Programs, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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