Remembering UNO veterans

Originally called Decoration Day and officially dating to May 5, 1868, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.

The UNO Alumni Association salutes its veteran alumni past and present. Veterans are numerous among the UNO graduate body, due mostly to the longtime presence of “Bootstrappers” on campus. Those alumni are part of the UNO Bootstrap Program, begun in 1951 by the U.S. Air Force to encourage members of the military to “lift themselves by the bootstraps” through a college degree. The first class of UNO Bootstrappers graduated in 1952-53, just five degrees being issued. By 1976, however, more than 12,000 individuals had received Bootstrap degrees.

In 1994, after extensive remodeling and an addition to the William H. Thompson Alumni Center, the alumni association named the facility’s large banquet room “Bootstrapper Hall” in their honor.

The UNO Alumni Association encourages all its graduates to mark the National Moment of Remembrance a Congressional resolution sponsored by UNO graduate and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, along with fellow vet and Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey. At 3 p.m. local time on Memorial day all Americans are called, "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps.'"

As part of our Memorial Day tribute, the UNO Alumni Association offers a handful of stories on UNO graduates and a former faculty member who have served our country:

• U.S. National Guard General Russell Davis;
• Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and among the early supporters of "The Wall" monument;
Jim Hughes, a one-time Vietnam POW;
Major General Michael Kudlacz, former deputy chief of staff for Air and Space Operations at U.S. Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon;
Paul Needham, one of two UNO alumni who were among the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran;
• U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Steve Novotny, commander of prisoner camp in Iraq;
Bob Reilly, former UNO professor and one-time World War II POW;
Tuskegee Airman James Warren, a fighter pilot from famous Freeman Field; and
General Johnnie Wilson, a Vietnam vet and the third black four-star general in U.S. Army history.

Veterans, we remember.