“You would be amazed at this heartland of America state how much of a
Navy connection there is. So many of these Midwestern kids who opted to
leave home and join the Navy to go out and see the world, a lot of them
come back. … My goal is to increase my reach out to these people.”
WALTER P. “BUTCH” KIRKLAND III
PRESIDENT, NEBRASKA COUNCIL
“We want to keep the North Dakota as a long-term
project because we want to have a lifelong relationship
between the state and the sub,” Wefald said. “We want
to have people be able to go out to the sub, have the
crew members come talk to us, we’re going to keep
focusing on that.”
The committee and council still are waiting for the
official word as to where and when North Dakota’s
commissioning will be held. Its christening is slated for
Nov. 2 in Groton, Conn.
As the calendar becomes more solid, Wefald said he
hopes the council’s new member recruiting efforts will
get a boost.
“Once the Navy gives us some deadlines, I think we
can get some more people to join the Navy League. It’s
a big deal for us,” he said.
The Nebraska Council had hoped to hit the ground
running a month after its chartering by hosting a golf
tournament in cooperation with, among others, local
chapters of the U.S. Submarine Veterans and the
Association of Naval Aviation, but had to postpone the
event because of bad weather.
The tournament now is slated for July 26 and will
help support the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps
(ROTC) program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps program at
Ashland, Neb.; the Navy Junior ROTC program at
Papillion-La Vista South High School and the city of
Omaha’s USS Omaha project near Eppley Airfield,
which involves development of a memorial park that
will include the sail and rudder from the decommissioned Los Angeles-class submarine Omaha.
There is the potential for another collaborative event
in the fall at Deer Springs Winery, which owned by James
W. Partington, a retired Navy rear admiral and strike
fighter pilot who was a member of the Cornhusker
Council and has joined the Nebraska Council.
Given that Nebraska is “far, far away from the Coast
and the waterfront” and because of the “fractured presence” of sea service support in the region, that includes
the Big Red Sub Club which supports the Ohio-class
ballistic-missile submarine USS Nebraska, Kirkland
said working together makes sense as the Nebraska
Council looks to move forward.
“It’s building confidence with them and having
them understand the Navy League and some of the
things we want to do, having goals and programs,” he
said. “It will help us build a bigger, better foundation
for the Navy League here in Nebraska.”
Looking ahead, the council hopes to bring back an
annual dinner that recognizes the local Omaha/Lincoln
area Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps elements,
which includes a 300- to 400-member active-duty
presence at U.S. Strategic Command.
“We’re going to try to pull that off in 2014,”
Kirkland said. “It takes a little planning and you have
to notify the units and let them know what you’re
going to do. Those are some of the things that are
cooking here in Nebraska.”
A continuing focus, though, will be membership.
“You would be amazed at this heartland of America
state how much of a Navy connection there is,”
Kirkland said. “So many of these Midwestern kids who
opted to leave home and join the Navy to go out and
see the world, a lot of them come back. And that’s what
we’re looking at. My goal is to increase my reach out to
At the same time, he said he is hoping the council
can attract people who may have little or no direct con-
nection to the sea services as well as younger people to
balance out the membership equation.
“Ninety-five percent of our membership here in
Nebraska is probably Navy connected, retired or Reserve
or something of that nature. It’s not a 35-year-old accountant down in Omaha who wants to be a part of the Navy
League. I’m not hitting that group yet,” Kirkland said.
“So we’re trying to get creative and present the Navy
League and our council, in particular, in a venue that is
attractive to younger folks,” he said. “It’s been a challenge,
it’s been a good challenge and I see this thing growing
even more as we learn to market ourselves properly.
“And if we can get the younger age group to buy
into this a little bit, just get five or 10 members, the
word will spread.” ■