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Posted on: November 7, 2023

Sarpy County Shines Light on Veterans, Honors Local Heroes

Sarpy County Commissioner David Klug speaks during a veterans recognition ceremony.

Sarpy County on Tuesday honored veterans across the county during a proclamation ceremony that also highlighted the service of five local heroes. 

“Our veterans represent the best of us and they more than deserve our gratitude and admiration,” said Sarpy County Board Chair Angi Burmeister. “Sarpy County is proud to support more than 20,000 veterans who live in our community, and we’re especially privileged to honor them by calling attention to their often-unsung service.” 

After issuing a Veterans Day proclamation that calls on our community to reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans, each Sarpy County Board commissioner recognized a veteran who lives in their district.  

Those veterans are Mark Borytsky, Mike Simmons, Ron Elwell Jr., James Arbuckle and Bill Koch. Please take the time to read their stories of service below.

Local veterans pose for a photo with the Sarpy County Board during a veterans recognition ceremony.

Mark Borytsky, District 1
 Veteran Mark Borytsky stands during a veterans recognition ceremony.

Mark Borytsky grew up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and entered the U.S. Air Force upon graduating in 1981. He spent 22 years in the Air Force in special duty operational and leadership positions.  

During his career, he accrued 3,500+ flying hours and visited 35 countries. His travels were on alert, with the Secretary of State, three Secretaries of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and USO tours. For his service, he received two Meritorious Service Medals, eight Aerial Achievement Medals, and multiple other medals and citations. 

Mark retired in 2003 and is now the Chief of Protocol to the installation commander at Offutt Air Force Base. His expertise reaches the United States Secret Service, Pentagon, Nebraska Air National Guard, local Chamber of Commerce, College and High School ROTC groups.  

Mike Simmons, District 2

Veteran Michael Simmons stands to be recognized during a recognition ceremony.

Michael Simmons served in the United States Army from 2009 until 2013. Shortly into his military career, Mike was deployed to Barash, Iraq, during Iraqi Freedom. While deployed in 2010, he was wounded from an IED blast, which caused many severe injuries.  

While recovering from his injuries, he volunteered at the VA Hospital in Omaha, helping other veterans. Mike was awarded the Purple Heart in January of 2011.

After separating from the Army in 2013, Mike and his family became Sarpy County residents. He has worked for the City of Papillion in the Parks Department for 10 years and continues to volunteer with veterans in our community through the Disabled American Veterans program at Bellevue University and through the Veterans Resource Network suicide prevention program. 

Ron Elwell Jr., District 3

Veteran Ron Elwell Jr. stands during a veterans recognition ceremony.Ron Elwell Jr. embarked on his military career in 1997 with the Nebraska National Guard. Ron went on to active-duty service as a Helicopter Crew Chief and as a flight Engineer. He also served as an Operations Specialist at the Task Force level as well as the Brigade and Battalion levels, advising commands on helicopter operations and capabilities.  

Three days before 9/11, Ron deployed to Bosnia in support of multinational support and stabilization operations. He went on to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and the southwest border Operation Jump Start in Arizona. 

Ron received several commendations including three Air Medals for his actions in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He is also a recipient of the Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal. Ron retired in 2020 after 22 years of service.  

James Arbuckle, District 4, represented by his wife, Pam Arbuckle

Veteran James Arbuckle's wife, Pam, stands during a veterans recognition ceremony.

James Arbuckle entered the U.S. Air Force in 1964, after graduating from Penn State University. During the Vietnam War, Jim flew 14 sensitive reconnaissance missions, logging more than 250 hours, in addition to flying 34 combat air refueling sorties while stationed in Southeast Asia. During the first few weeks of Operation Desert Shield, Jim successfully provided Reconnaissance support, with just 12 hours of notice, to CENTCOM with RC-135 operations from Offutt AFB.  

After serving his country for 28 years, Jim retired in 1992. Since retiring, Jim served with the National Ski Patrol, on the Board of Habitat for Humanity in Omaha and on the Dean’s Development Council at Penn State. He also flew with Pilots and Paws to rescue unsheltered dogs and take them to non-kill shelters.  

Jim was recently presented with a Quilt of Valor at Maple Crest Long Term Care Facility where he has been living for 18 months due to health conditions, which were presumably caused by Agent Orange exposure. 

Bill Koch, District 5

Veteran Bill Koch stands during a veterans recognition ceremony.

Born and raised in Gretna, Bill Koch was called to serve in the U.S. Army and completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, before finishing advanced infantryman training. He served a full tour in Vietnam with the 23rd Infantry AmeraCal Division.  

He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Air Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal and the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces. 

After his tour, Bill returned to Gretna still ready to serve. In the following years, he has been Vice Commander, Commander and Adjutant of Gretna American Legion Post 216. To this day, Bill volunteers for honor guards, color guards, rifle squads and building maintenance for the American Legion and Veterans of foreign wars of Gretna. 

OPERATION GREEN LIGHT

Sarpy County is also participating in Operation Green Light for Veterans this week to let veterans know that they are seen, appreciated and supported. The county’s administration and 1102 buildings will be lit green from dusk till dawn as part of this effort. 

Sarpy's 1102Building appears green as part of Operation Green Light for VeteransSarpy's Admin Building appears green as part of Operation Green Light for Veterans

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About Sarpy County  

Sarpy County is the fastest-growing county in the state of Nebraska, attracting new residents, visitors, businesses and jobs each year. Sarpy County is home to the cities of Bellevue, Papillion, La Vista, Gretna and Springfield, as well as Offutt Air Force Base. In less than 20 minutes, you can travel from the vibrant urban centers to beautiful outdoor recreational areas and activities. More information is available at Sarpy.gov. 

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