The social media giant Facebook donated $250,000 last week to a group building a memorial in Papillion to Nebraskans who served, and died, in the Vietnam War.
A portion of the grant — $100,000 — will be used for educational programs tied to the 2-acre memorial, which is slated to open in 2023 on a site adjacent to the SumTur Amphitheater, said George Abbott, secretary-treasurer of the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation. The rest will go toward construction of the $5.4 million project.
“That was a real blessing for us,” Abbott said. “We have a hard time getting any money specifically for educational programs.”
The memorial is slated to include a restored UH-1 Huey helicopter with a rescue display, 11 obelisks listing historical events from individual years of the Vietnam War, an array of flagpoles, benches and green space.
It will also include a V-shaped wall of black granite listing the names of the 396 Nebraskans killed in the war, funded by a donor who has asked to remain anonymous.
Facebook opened a large data center in Papillion in 2019. Last spring the company announced a $400 million expansion in Springfield that will boost its facilities in Sarpy County to 3.6 million square feet.
Matt Sexton, the data center’s community development manager, said at the time that Facebook had donated $2 million to organizations in Sarpy County.
“Facebook is excited that Sarpy County will be home to this important memorial which will serve as a community connection point and provide valuable learning opportunities,” Sexton said in a statement this week.
Abbott said Facebook officials met with Papillion Mayor David Black and other members of the committee backing the veterans memorial to discuss ways the company might contribute.
The social media company has been under fire in recent weeks, accused by a whistleblower of ignoring evidence its platforms cause harm to teen users and promote the spread of political misinformation, hate speech, human trafficking and ethnic violence.
The whistleblower, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, contributed to an investigative report in the Wall Street Journal, appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” and testified last week for a Senate subcommittee.
Abbott also said the price tag for the memorial has jumped from $3.8 million to $5.4 million, in large part because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the group has raised $4 million so far, most of it this year.
“This is a big boost,” he said. “We’re very happy with where things are right now.”
More information on the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial is available at: www.NVVMF.org.