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Our Town Lexington: Veterans Pavilion

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 10:05 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The community of Lexington is stepping up to build a place where people can gather, and where veterans will always be remembered.

At the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles, the tradition of honoring veterans continues. “We started in 1987, when they made the movie Amerika for ABC Circle Films down in Lincoln,” museum board member Dave Smith said. At the time, the film crew was looking for military jeeps. Smith says local residents provided some. After the filming was over, it was decided those jeeps ought to be preserved. That started a trend. “A number of farmers started bringing vehicles to us,” Smith said. Many old military vehicles were pulled out of tree lines. “The reason there were so many vehicles in the tree lines is that in World War II, you couldn’t buy a tractor,” Smith said. Some farmers instead acquired military vehicles to help them farm. When they finally broke down, farmers parked them. “And that was the end of it, then they set there for years,” Smith said. Thanks to the vision of board members at the museum, you can now see many refurbished military vehicles. It’s just one example of the effort to honor veterans in Lexington. The latest effort involves a veterans pavilion.

“Probably about two years ago, I was thinking about why Lexington didn’t have a memorial of some sort for the veterans,” Lexington Veterans Pavilion Chair Jim Bliven said. The original idea was to name streets after local veterans who’d given their lives in war.

But the city helped take the idea a step further. “It kind of got bigger and bigger and worked itself into a pavilion or an amphitheater,” Bliven said. The pavilion will be located on a vacant space on the east side of town. “The mayor, the city administration have been absolutely wonderful,” Bliven said. They have actually given us land to put the pavilion on. They are going to do the streets for us, and they are going to maintain this pavilion. This is not meant only for Lexington, it’s meant for Dawson County definitely, and all of the towns that are within Dawson County.” Organizers would like the pavilion to even represent veterans across central and western Nebraska.

Not only do organizers want this pavilion to be a place where veterans are remembered. They also want it to be a place where young people can be educated about the military, and what veterans have done. In addition, the space will be used for gatherings and concerts. A wall on the west side will celebrate a veterans ‘years of service’. “This design is the first step, the wall is the next half step,” Dawson County Veterans Service Officer Steve Zerr said. “Then we’ll get into more of the memorials. We’d love to see in the future, doing something for the National Guard. The National Guard was a huge part of Lexington.”

Donations from the community are helping make the pavilion possible. “We are close to our goal,” pavilion committee member Dick Prasch said. “We always need help, but it’s going to be something the community can get behind and all of Dawson County. Our backing has been phenomenal in this town. The Lexington Foundation was a big part.” And, organizations like the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles are happy to be involved. “We have a real tradition, both at this museum, and throughout whole community of honoring veterans,” Smith said. “There’s a special place in the cemetery and so forth. If this new pavilion gets built, it will carry on that tradition.”

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