Nebraska National Guard Museum remembers 2017


The Nebraska National Guard Museum had a record year in 2017. The museum saw 17,763 patrons visit which broke the 2016 record of 13,610. The single day record was set on July 4, with 8,717 visitors.

The museum hosted 19 educational class visits, two major fundraising events, 23 large group tours, Chautauqua 2017 and the Nebraska National Guard birthday during the year.

The facility dedicated new rooms and exhibits in 2017. The museum also unveiled plans for 2018 and 2019 future rooms and exhibits.

The museum started off January with some major events hosting the Nebraska National Guard Aviation Safety Conference and the Non-commissioned Officers Call. These events brought guardsmen from around the state to Seward for an all day conference at the facility. These events boosted the usually low numbers the museum would see in January.

The scheduling of public school classroom visits helped bolster visitation numbers February through May and October through December. The local schools (Seward and Crete) supplied the most students while others sent smaller classes.

The required state curriculum courses were taught in the Concordia University Learning Center in the museum. The two main topics that were covered the past year were World War I and World War II. The classes were taught by the Nebraska National Guard (NENG) historian, and “hands on” instruction with artifacts was provided by the museum curator. One of the more unique teaching experiences was a literature class for the National POW-MIA Recognition Day in September. They studied military history as it relates to some of our service members’ stories.

The museum hosted two major fundraising events over the past year. The Annual Nebraska National Guard Museum Society Night at the Museum was held in April and highlighted the new additions and future projects to donors and patrons. The other event is the Run to St. Lo Memorial 5K and 1 Mile Run/Walk in June. The event memorializes the sacrifice of 44 Nebraska National Guardsmen of the famed 134th Infantry Regiment who were killed in the liberation of St. Lo, France, in World War II.

Two of the biggest events at the museum were the Chautauqua 2017 and the annual July 4 celebration. The museum was chosen to host part of Chautauqua 2017: “Legacy of a Forgotten War – World War I” in June. The facility hosted seminars on diverse topics related to the war in the Jones National Bank and Trust Company Theater. Donors in the community of Seward sponsored Gen. John Pershing (actor Dave Shuey), pilot Tom Martin (replica Nieuport 23), and several World War I re-enactors and horses to round out the event. The museum provided classes on aviation, medicine, leadership and other World War I related topics.

The Chautauqua actors included President Wilson and others who interacted with Gen. Pershing throughout the week-long event.

The July 4 celebration in Nebraska’s 4th of July City is the highlight of each year. The museum hosts a kickoff event prior to the big day. In keeping with the 100th anniversary of World War I, the museum hosted “Vaudeville 1917: Sousa Comes to Seward.” The City of Seward Municipal Band became the John Phillip Sousa band for the evening and played Sousa’s most famous music between vaudeville acts for a great evening of entertainment.

The museum dedicated the Berry Law Firm Conference Room and Library and the Chaplains Shroud on July 4. The record crowd was pleased with the magnificent facility and wonderful exhibits. The museum provided historic vehicles (jeeps and gama-goat) for the Grand Parade on July 4.

An event that is getting bigger each year is the annual National Airborne Day on Aug. 16. This is the anniversary of the founding of our airborne forces in 1940.

The facility was home to an airborne rigger unit prior to becoming the museum in 2014. This past year, riggers brought in equipment and provided entertainment for airborne veterans from around the state.

One of the more unique events of the year was the total eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21. The museum was one of the host sites in the city of Seward. The local Kiwanis group grilled burgers and served people who set up to watch the mid-afternoon event. The museum was visited by people from as far away as Toronto, Canada, on that day.

The last months of the year were very busy for the museum. The Nebraska National Guard historian was invited to speak at the National World War I Commission Regional Conference in Chicago and at the Higgins Reunion at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in October.

The Nebraska National Guard and the museum teamed up with Concordia University to host the first annual Military Appreciation football game in October which featured modern and historical equipment used by the guard.

The museum hosts a “Christmas in the Military” event on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in conjunction with the Christmas festival in Seward. The museum is decorated in Christmas themes and musicians play and patrons are served warm kolaches and hot apple cider. Patrons were introduced to the new movie in the Jones National

Bank and Trust Company Theater on the Nebraska National Guard which was written by Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes (Public Affairs Officer) and produced by Channel 10/11 (CBS) in Lincoln. The evening features a Christmas lighted parade and the museum provides a lighted Gama-goat entry.

The end of the year in December features the Nebraska National Guard birthday (Dec. 23, 1854) which was held on Dec. 9. The Adjutant General and Command Sergeant Major assisted service members in cutting the traditional cake and helping kick off the celebration at the museum.

Plans for 2018

The coming year has some great plans in store. The museum received a donation for $100,000 to complete the “I Am the Guard” Room for dedication on July 4, 2018. This high-tech room uses interactive technologies to allow patrons to “join” the Nebraska National Guard, experience some of the training and meet some the veterans who served in our ranks (such as Omaha’s Warren Buffett).

Other displays that are planned to be unveiled include:

• “The Price of Freedom” Alcove – Western Union Telegrams (tells the story of the men of the 134th Infantry Regiment from Nebraska that were killed in World War II).

• “Women and the Nebraska National Guard” Alcove (highlighting the service of women in the NENG).

• “Fathers of the Modern Nebraska National Guard – Henninger, Miltonberger and Greenlief” Alcove (highlighting the men who built the guard following World War II)

• “Lost Battalion in the Aleutians” (the role of the Second Battalion of the 134th Infantry Regiment on its mission to Alaska in World War II).

Another unique event for July 4 will be the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the State Partnership Program with the Czech Republic. Representatives of the country will be participating in activities during the week.

Local donors are supporting bringing out Gen. John Pershing again with his friends, Teddy Roosevelt and George Patton. These re-enactors will be part of the “Vaudeville 1918: Welcome Home” celebration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in July. They will also provide a leadership seminar for soldiers and airmen at the museum.

The Capital Campaign for the museum also kicks off in 2018 featuring the “Cornrow to Hedgerow: 4-D Experience” to be dedicated in 2019 on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of St. Lo, France. You can follow the progress of the facility on Facebook by searching “Nebraska National Guard Museum.” For questions call (402) 309-8763/8761.