On Christmas Day, 1941, a large contingent of North Platte, Nebraska, residents met at the North Platte train station to extend good wishes and provide gifts to what they thought were soldiers from the local National Guard unit travelling through the community on a troop train. The troop trains, which were common during that time, were carrying soldiers on their way to unknown war-time destinations. The train that arrived was not carrying Nebraska soldiers, but rather 300-plus soldiers from Kansas on their way to battle.
Rather than return home disappointed, the North Platte residents at the train station offered their food and gifts to the Kansas troops, building morale and spreading holiday cheer among the soldiers. This was just the beginning of what became known as the North Platte Canteen. Each day for the remainder of World War II, residents from more than 125 North Platte area communities personally greeted each troop train that stopped in the community for train refueling and maintenance. Local residents offered these young soldiers candy, baked goods, cigarettes, smiles and warm hugs. The process of personally greeting every soldier on the way to war became a rallying cry for North Platte area residents. A large number of World War II soldiers passed through North Platte and witnessed this selfless commitment of generosity and kindness.
The passion, support and admiration exhibited for our military soldiers at the North Platte Canteen remains a part of Nebraska’s culture. Nebraskans are proud of our veterans, as reflected by the numerous veterans memorials constructed over the past few years. Today, Nebraskans afford profound respect and support for our military veterans. Following are links to the many programs, services and organizations that serve the veteran community in Nebraska.
- Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs – http://www.vets.state.ne.us/
- Nebraska VFW – http://vfwne.com/
- Nebraska American Legion – http://www.nebraskalegion.net/
- Nebraska National Guard – http://ne.ng.mil/Pages/
- Disabled American Veterans of Nebraska – http://www.davmembersportal.org/ne/default.aspx
- Nebraska VA Health Services – http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/state.asp?dnum=ALL&STATE=NE
- Nebraska Veteran’s Cemetery – http://www.vets.state.ne.us/nvca.html
- Fort McPherson National Cemetery – http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/ftmcpherson.asp
- Nebraska PTSD Program – http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/state_PTSD.cfm?STATE=NE