Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, visits with Milo and Phyllis Birkley, of Jackson, Neb., following the Veterans Day program at the Ponca High School West Gymnasium in Ponca, Neb., on Monday. Milo Birkley, 90, is a Korean War veteran.

PONCA, Neb. -- One day after the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice to end World War I, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts visited Ponca to deliver the keynote address for a Veterans Day program that recognized dozens of veterans as well as a pair of Ponca High School seniors just months away from beginning their military commitment.

Pete Ricketts


"Here in Nebraska we have a connection to the 'War to End All Wars,'" said Ricketts, a Republican who was re-elected Tuesday by a 19-percent margin. "Sixty thousand Nebraskans served in that war. Seven hundred fifty-one lost their lives in that war."

Ricketts went on to describe the ultimate sacrifices of pilot Jarvis Offutt, for whom Omaha's Offutt Air Force Base is named, and Roscoe "Dusty" Rhodes, a captain on the Nebraska football team who lost his life in Europe. "Roscoe was the inspiration for the name on Memorial Stadium," he said.

(Rhodes' family, it's been said, declined when asked if they'd like the new football stadium named in his honor. The Rhodes family, instead, said the stadium should honor all Nebraskans killed in World War I.)

Kayden Fields, a member of the Ponca High School Student Council, noted this year also marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Atlee E. Chapelle, a U.S. Army private killed in France at the age of 27. The body of Chapelle, who was originally buried in France, was brought back home to Ponca. He was buried with military honors on Nov. 19, 1919, in the Ponca City Cemetery. The American Legion then granted a charter for the formation of Chapelle Post 117 in Ponca.

Ricketts explained that the "War to End All Wars" has been a misnomer because of dictators and small groups of people who run authoritarian governments elsewhere and decry the great American experiment, a country established on God-given rights some two and a half centuries ago.

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"When our country was founded, our founders had a radical view of our country," Ricketts said. "They understood our rights come to us from God, not from the government. They are our rights to defend ... We work to make sure everybody has that chance at the American dream. And we've been hugely successful. We have created the greatest nation the world has ever seen."

Evil people, in turn, who envy our way of life, nay fear our way of life, pursue their own selfish ambitions and have created wars while reaching for power. It happened in World War II, and in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, to name a few.

"As they tried to extend their power, we stood up to those dictators to say, 'No,'" Ricketts said.

The men and women in our armed forces, he said, remain ever vigilant in protecting our way of life. "We continue to need those people to put on that uniform to defend us and that's why we're here today," Ricketts concluded.

Ponca High School seniors Gage McGill and Jayde Reid were lauded for signaling their plans to enlist in the Nebraska National Guard upon graduating from Ponca High in May.

Following Ricketts' comments, creations from the popular Quilts of Valor program were presented to the following veterans from the Ponca and Jackson, Nebraska, area: Clair Hamar, Francis Kingsbury, Phil Knerl, Gail L. Konken Sr., Russell O. Rasmussen, Terry Rohan and Wayne Stapleton.

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