OPINION

Senatorial Update with Deb Fischer

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

Summer in Nebraska

At the end of June, I had the honor of presenting the family of Glen Schreurs with medals from his service in World War II. Glen’s family had requested them from the National Personnel Records Center, which keeps track of medals and other documents from American soldiers’ service, and they asked my office to help them finish the process.

This same agency helped me track down two of my uncles’ service medals a few years ago. Like my uncles, Glen was a Nebraskan who served his country admirably in World War II. Glen’s heroism at the Battle of Okinawa and elsewhere in the Pacific Theater earned him eight medals and badges, including a Purple Heart, a Sharpshooter Badge with a rifle bar, and a Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster. It was especially moving to give Glen’s family this last medal: My uncles earned the same one, one of them also with an oak leaf cluster.

Glen was barely of military age when his name was called in the draft. He served as a rifleman until his honorable discharge after being wounded in the final year of the war. He then returned home to Nebraska, where he started a beautiful family. Twenty-eight of his children, grandchildren, and other relatives were present in Omaha to receive his medals.

Because of my experience searching for my uncles’ records, I know how difficult it can be to navigate federal agencies. When the Schreurs reached out to me late last year, I considered it an honor to help them find the same peace I had found.

That same week, I also had the privilege of touring the new Ambulatory Care Center at the Omaha VA Medical Center and the Fisher House next door. This new facility is the product of years of collaboration between the VA and Omaha residents, who formed a public-private partnership to bring this crucial care to Nebraska veterans.

Until a few years ago, that wasn’t possible. Unnecessary red tape made it impossible for communities to help manage construction projects at their local VA. To fix that, I introduced the CHIP IN for Vets Act, which authorized the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to allow these partnerships. Congress passed my bill in 2016, and Omahans got right to work.

During my visit to the VA, I saw how this brand-new three-story expansion is giving Nebraska veterans the health care they deserve. From five new ambulatory surgery suites to the first dedicated women’s health clinic in the history of the Nebraska-Western Iowa VA, this new center is proof that government and local communities can get good things done when they work together.

The Omaha VA’s Fisher House is another wonderful example of public-private collaboration. Built by the Fisher House Foundation and donated to the VA in 2019, it offers lodging to veterans’ families while their loved one is receiving care, completely free of charge. Our veterans shouldn’t have to worry about where their family will stay while they are at the VA – and thanks to the Fisher House, they don’t have to. It was a privilege to be there for the groundbreaking ceremony two years ago.

In another visit during this state work period, I spoke with members of the Nebraska Credit Union League. We talked about everything from the importance of agriculture for Nebraska’s economy to how credit unions responded to the pandemic and to the ongoing crisis at America’s southern border. I was also able to answer a few other questions about federal legislation that could affect the way they do business.

Meetings like these are why I chose to enter public service in the first place. It is my honor to help people like the Schreurs family, or to clear the way for communities to get things done themselves – and it is my honor to represent you and all Nebraskans in Washington.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

United States Senator Deb Fischer