Support Heroes Park

Michael Ott joined the military to see the world.

And he accomplished his mission.

After graduating from Beemer High School in 1968, Ott enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed in a number of places in the states and overseas, including Guam where he was part of a civil engineering squadron whose members kept the air conditioners, refrigerators and other cooling equipment in working order.

The military, Ott said, is a good teacher.

“You learn to follow orders,” headded. “It teaches you discipline. And I liked seeing different parts of the world, meeting a lot of different people.”

Ot hadn’t had enough of military life after his first tour was up. So after returning to Nebraska, he joined the National Guard.

He left the guard in 1987 and continued working for farmers and as a truck driver. A few years ago, medical issues sent him to the Norfolk Veterans Home, where he still lives.

Like many of the veterans there, Ott likes to spend time outside when the weather is nice. But the members have few options when it comes to outdoor living space.

The veterans home, located on East Benjamin Avenue, has a number of pods that jut out from the main building. Each pod has a certain number of bedrooms for members, a dining room and meeting room. And most pods have small patios with tables and chairs that members can use.

But there are no paths where veterans can walk or be pushed in a wheelchair, no picnic tables, no covered shelter areas on the veterans home grounds. There are a few spaces where members can plant vegetables or flowers, but nothing large enough for much of a garden.

That’s why the Norfolk Veterans Home Foundation is raising money to build Heroes Park — an eight-acrespace that will have a variety of outdoor amenities meant to improve the quality of life for the area’s veterans. The park will also feature a Veterans Memory Plaza that will include tiles honoringthose who are serving or have served. The tiles can include a smart tag that, when scanned with a properly equipped electronic device, takes the viewer to a website with photos and stories about thehonored veteran.

“This is an opportunity to give back to the veterans and show our appreciation for them serving our country,” said R.J. Gall, chairman of the Veterans Home Foundation board of directors.

So far, around $1.8 million of the $2.5 million needed to build the park and plaza has been raised said Ron Stauffer, campaign chairman.

“We are thankful for the many donors who have stepped up to the challenge, but we have a ways to go. Please join us in our effort to provide a relaxing park where all of the veterans can enjoy the outdoors. We’re asking people to call today and make a commitment to complete this project,” he added.

While donations of any monetary amount are appreciated, Stauffer said there are a number of “naming opportunities” still available — including a water and flower gardens, playground, picnic tables and more. All such donations will be recognized by plaques.

“The naming opportunities range in gift value from $250 to $100,000 plus. These values will allow most anyone an opportunity to be recognized if they so choose,” Gallsaid.

Michael Ott recognizes the value of having an outdoor space where veterans, their families and friends could spend time.

“It’s a good idea,” he said. “Families could have picnics, the people who use the electric scooters would have a place to walk.”