New veterans cemetery in Omaha opens with memorial service

OMAHA, Neb. — A new national cemetery for veterans in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa has opened with a service for four men who had served in the military.

The ashes of the four veterans were buried with full military honors at the new Omaha National Cemetery. One deceased military member was chosen from each service branch.

Those veterans included Marine Cpl. John "Frank" Ernst of Omaha, Army Spc. Michael Brabec of Fremont, Air Force Sgt. James Edgell of Council Bluffs and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Rosberg of Omaha.

Cemetery director Cindy Van Bibber said at the ceremony that the headstones will represent the veterans' sacrifices.

"We celebrate the fact that the Omaha National Cemetery is here and its operating," said Bibber. "Long after we're gone, these headstones will still be here, representing the sacrifices these people made."

In the early 2000s, Bellevue businessmen Steve Johnson and John Richard Thompson started a group called Memorial Ridge of the Midlands to lobby federal, state and local officials for a cemetery in Sarpy County. The effort took longer than expected and also required legislation in Congress.

According to Bibber the cemetery is expected to accommodate the burials of Nebraska and Iowa veterans and their spouses.

She said there is still work to be done which will include a permanent headquarters, maintenance and honor-guard buildings, a visitor's center and the first 5,500 sites for casketed and cremated remains.

Families have sent requests for more than 220 deceased veterans to be buried in the cemetery according to Bibber. More burials are scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Up to five funerals can be held each day.

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