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Ricketts hails new tuition benefits for Nebraska National Guard members
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Ricketts hails new tuition benefits for Nebraska National Guard members

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Nebraska Soldiers honored for 2019 flood rescues

A Nebraska National Guard helicopter crew received the 2019 DUSTOFF Rescue of the Year award for their recovery of seven firefighters from the floodwaters of the Elkhorn River in 2018.

Gov. Pete Ricketts saluted the Nebraska National Guard on Thursday at a news conference celebrating legislative enactment of a bill that increases and expands tuition assistance for Guard members in state-supported colleges and universities.

"What a cool organization they are," the governor said in citing the Guard's vital role in providing assistance during recent record flooding in Nebraska and in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The Guard, with its 4,500 soldiers and airmen, is "an amazing resource for the state of Nebraska," Ricketts said.

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The legislation (LB450), sponsored by Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, increases undergraduate tuition assistance from 75% to 100% and expands the program to include 50% tuition assistance for graduate programs.

Estimated cost for fiscal 2021-22 has been pegged at $268,000, according to the bill's accompanying fiscal note.

Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard, described the legislation as "a game-changer" in terms of support that can have an impact on recruitment and retention of Guard members.

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This change has elevated Nebraska's ongoing effort to become identified as "the most friendly military and veteran state in the country," Bohac said.

Wishart said the bill will make Nebraska "one of the best states in terms of National Guard tuition assistance, if not the best."

Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, who served 36 years in uniform during a military career centered in the Nebraska National Guard and was wounded in Afghanistan, said "we are investing in the people who are protecting us."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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