Students turn learning into legislation
This spring, two University students saw their class work have a real life impact. It all started as a project in Professor Amy Ellefson's class. "We were asked to create a public relations plan for an organization, and Kristine Negley suggested Honor and Remember," said Russell Kirkpatrick, a Communications major.
According to their website, Honor and Remember is an organization promoting the Honor and Remember Flag as a symbol for "All Military lives lost not only in action but also in service, from our nation's inception." Negley, who is pursuing a Communications degree with a minor in Business, learned about the organization through her job at TD Ameritrade. "I had heard about Honor and Remember through an article I was asked to write at work highlighting an associate in Texas who was purchasing flags for local KIA [killed in action] and carrying them through triathlons he was competing in before donating them to the families of the fallen soldiers."
Negley was immediately drawn to the cause. The mission of Honor and Remember is "To create, establish and promote a nationally recognized flag that would fly continuously as a visible reminder to all Americans of the lives lost in defense of our national freedoms." The flag was originally designed by the organization's founder, George Lutz, whose son was killed by a sniper in Iraq.
For Vietnam veteran Kirkpatrick, this whole experience has its roots in his military service. "While I was in the military, I was an honorary military escort for a soldier killed in Vietnam. That experience never left me – I am really proud to be a part of this process."
Once the class project was finished, their passion for the movement translated into real-world results as the group decided to try to have official legislation passed to make the flag an official symbol in the state of Nebraska. They began by talking to Lutz about forming a state chapter of Honor and Remember, and contacted Gold Star Moms of Nebraska, an organization already affiliated with the organization.
Kirkpatrick also sits on the Veterans Assistance and Services Programs (VASP) committee, a subsidiary of the Nebraska Business Development Center, and contacted them to enlist their support. The group of students, now including Jake Seeman and Bernie Vindette, successfully created a Nebraska chapter of Honor and Remember. Kirkpatrick was named Chairman, Negley the Assistant Chairwoman, with Seeman and Vindette named as board members.
With all of their support in place, the group needed a state senator to introduce the bill. Kirkpatrick contacted state Senator Scott Price, who introduced the resolution, LR 141, to the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Kirkpatrick and Negley testified at the hearing in support of the bill. LR 141 passed through the committee by a unanimous vote, and will be introduced as a bill in the next session of the Legislature.
Kirkpatrick will graduate in June, after finishing up his coursework this term – "I helped pass a bill, now I just need to pass algebra!" he said. He plans to earn his Master's in Public Administration at Bellevue.
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