Tag Archives: Joyce Winfield

American Heroes and Dreamers

October 26, 2017 by

“Chuck Hagel supported the war. His brother hated it. And in the jungles of Vietnam each was destined to save the other’s life.” The text blurb appears on the front cover of a new book by Daniel P. Bolger, Our Year of War: Two Brothers, Vietnam, and a Nation Divided.

An advance copy arrived in the mail while Omaha Magazine was deep in production on our November/December issue. A note from the publishing house explained that the book would be published on Nov. 7, in time for Veterans Day (Nov. 11).

Veterans Day was also the motivation for several military and veteran-themed stories in the full city edition of our latest issue. One of those stories is an artist profile about one of the Hagel brothers. But we didn’t write about the two highlighted in Bolger’s new book.

In 1968, Tom and Chuck Hagel fought the Tet Offensive, battled snipers in Saigon, and chased the enemy through the jungle. Years later, Tom became a law professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Chuck went on to represent Nebraska in the U.S. Senate for 12 years before serving as U.S. Defense Secretary from 2013 until 2015 under President Barrack Obama.

Their younger brother, Mike Hagel, was too young to serve in Vietnam. He would grow up to be a successful artist working in advertising and fine art. A portrait that he painted of his older brother now hangs in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Our latest issue features Mike’s story, titled “Nebraska’s Painter in the Pentagon.”

Another military-focused article about local art is the story of the New Century Art Guild. The nonprofit is dedicated to helping veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder through artwork. The guild has a gallery displaying artworks at City Hall, organizes veteran art exhibitions around town, and also hosts workshops and classes. Twice a month, they even offer art classes to incarcerated vets suffering from PTSD.

Joyce Winfield, Ph.D., writes about the philanthropic work of Bill and Evonne Williams. The Williamses coordinated 11 honor flights from Nebraska (taking 3,235 veterans to the nation’s capital), culminating in The Final Mission. Joyce had previously written the cover story of Omaha Magazine’s May/June issue (excerpted from her book, Forever Heroes: A Collection of World War II Stories from Nebraska Veterans). Her husband, Doug, served in Vietnam and participated in The Final Mission. Her in-depth article in this issue explores the trip from the vantage of other Omaha-area Vietnam vets, and she explains the next phase of the Williamses’ efforts to memorialize members of the U.S. Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives in the years and wars following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Aside from these military stories, the November/December issue’s other major article addresses Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals from the perspective of the local youths. University of Nebraska-Omaha professor Thomas Sanchez, Ph.D., interviewed 10 anonymous DACA recipients, and Omaha Magazine reached out to five additional current, former, and would-be DACA recipients (who volunteered to support the story with their faces, names, and video interviews).

The story of DACA recipients relates back to Chuck Hagel’s time in the U.S. Senate. He was the first Republican co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that addressed the status of undocumented youths who grew up in the U.S. (aka “dreamers”). The DREAM Act never became law, which led to the policy of “deferred action” under Obama, and current uncertainty facing the youths in the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement to terminate DACA.

This letter was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Making of the May/June 2017 Cover

April 27, 2017 by

About the cover:

The U.S. D-Day landing at Normandy’s Omaha Beach has been called “Bloody Omaha.” Omaha Magazine created a replica of the June 6, 1944, Omaha Beach landing for the current cover.

Surrounding the diorama are Joyce Winfield and Ben Drickey, featured in this issue, who have documented stories of Nebraska’s “Greatest Generation.”

The magazine’s creative team (Bill Sitzmann, Matt Wieczorek, Derek Joy, and Mady Besch) used smoke machines, firecrackers, fires, and Photoshop over their hand-made diorama to create the May/June 2017 cover.

Celebrating Omaha’s World War II Veterans

April 25, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs, Headshot by Bill Sitzmann

As a kid, my grandfather’s World War II experiences were the stuff of legend.

Army private first-class Robert Wesley Meigs fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He crossed the Remagen Bridge and survived a German artillery blast. The explosion killed two of his fellow infantrymen, and the shrapnel remains in his arm to this day. As Allied forces marched onward—and he got out of the hospital—Grandpa returned to the front. He even helped to liberate a concentration camp; he remembers how the starving victims scattered across the countryside when U.S. troops opened the gates.

But he didn’t talk about the war with us grandkids. A case full of his medals—including a Purple Heart—remained tucked away, out of view. Our father told brief anecdotes, but the stories were incomplete. And we were scared to ask for more details.

Then one day, during my undergraduate studies, a military history class gave me an opportunity to sit down with my grandfather. A class project was my excuse to pry into his role in the Greatest Generation’s fight against global fascism.

A transcript from the 2005 interview is now collected by the Library of Congress Folklife Center’s Veterans History Project, and an edited version is posted on Omaha Magazine’s website, here.

Today, Grandpa is 94 years old. I am still learning from him—about life in general, and about his time in World War II. But the stories and perspectives of his generation are becoming increasingly scarce with the passage of time.

One Veterans Day not long ago, I thanked Grandpa for being a hero. He corrected me. “The real heroes never made it home,” he said with a stern face.

In the fall of 2016, he moved from Nebraska to Idaho to live closer to my uncles after my grandmother had passed. Before leaving town, he shared an unexpected anecdote: “Did I ever tell you about the time I was peed on?” Grandpa said, laughing, as he recalled another soldier’s “misfire” in the crowded foxhole. It was a crude awakening after he finally managed to catch a moment of sleep between German artillery bombardments.

The stories of World War II and the experiences of veterans are as diverse as the Americans who contributed to the war effort. Omaha Magazine’s May/June issue celebrates Omaha’s veterans of World War II with a multi-part story package. The issue’s publication coincides with the 73rd anniversary of D-Day and the Allied storming of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Omaha Beach—one of five Normandy beachheads—is synonymous with America’s entry into the war. My grandfather did not participate in the invasion. But the entire nation would soon know the infamous codename of D-Day’s bloodiest beachhead. The city of Omaha eventually became his home. His children graduated from local high schools. My father met my Nebraska-raised mother in Omaha, and the rest is history.

Our May/June issue is especially rich with local history stories. Higgins Boats (boats utilized in D-Day beach landings) were actually invented by a man who grew up in Omaha. After Andrew Higgins’ expulsion from Creighton Prep High School, he joined the Nebraska National Guard.

The Omaha metro remains home to many World War II veterans. Several of their stories (excerpted in this issue) are captured in a new book by Joyce Winfield, a retired Midland University professor of journalism. Leah Meyer, the interim director of UNO’s Office of Military and Veteran Services, explains how others can contribute their own veteran interviews to the Library of Congress.

But there are many ways Omahans continue to celebrate the lives of World War II vets—evident in the work of two local filmmakers. Ben Drickey followed his grandfather on a trip to Germany, revisiting his time in the war. The film project kickstarted Drickey’s career in film production. Meanwhile, there is the story of Shawn Schmidt’s 48 Stars, a film that tells the stories of World War II veterans in their own words. Schmidt’s father fought in World War II, but the son never had a chance to document his story. Now, he is making up for lost time while there’s still time with other World War II vets.

Omaha Magazine salutes the veterans of World War II, and all of the men and women who have put their lives on the line for America. We hope you enjoy the issue!

This letter appeared in the May/June edition of Omaha Magazine.

Doug Meigs is the executive editor of Omaha Publications.