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Last week, a veteran requested the City of Neligh consider changing its fireworks policy. This week, a soldier currently on active duty is asking the City Council to stand down.
Michaela Potter, who served as a medic in Afghanistan and recently moved to Neligh from Washington state, asked the City Council to create a fireworks ordinance due to anxiety for combat veterans, as well as for people who may be sleeping due to work commitment and for pets.
The council discussed ordinances from several area communities, and many allowed fireworks until either 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. Council member Leonard Miller suggested an ordinance in Neligh for 10 p.m. while Stephanie Wanek asked for 11 p.m. They compromised on 10:30 p.m. and instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance for review at a future meeting allowing fireworks from 10 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. They would be allowed until midnight on July 4.
But Javis Olson, a 2006 Neligh-Oakdale graduate and E5/SGT in the U.S. Army, disagrees with changing the City’s guidelines. Neligh currently does not have a fireworks ordinance but follows the 11 p.m. guideline on weekdays.
“When I raised my hand to join the Army, I knew what I was sacrificing,” Olson said. “Nowhere in that contract did it say anything about asking my community to change its policies for service members like myself.”
Olson, who is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. but was “born and raised in Neligh,” said he wants council members to take their time in considering this change. After all, he said Neligh is home to veterans from many wars, and council members should seek their opinions on whether the restriction is even necessary.
Olson - who has been awarded the Bronze Star, two Army Commendation medals and three Army Achievement medals - referenced his grandfather Laverne Heermann and Desert Storm veteran Perry Smith in saying veterans who served in combat situations haven’t complained about Neligh’s fireworks.
“We never heard one word from those heroes, so why should we be any different today as this generation’s veterans? Why should we as veterans want to change something that comes once a year to celebrate America’s independence that was fought and bled for by valorous heroes like who I have had the pleasure of serving beside?” Olson asked. “Neligh has changed so much already. Why change something so small that many families and children look forward to all year long?”
Olson served in the Nebraska National Guard from 2005-2012 and has been on active duty since December 2012. He currently serves in the 14th CRD/GSB (Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment/Group Support Battalion) in 3rd SFG (Special Forces Group) A (Airborne).
Although fireworks don’t bother him, Olson said he is aware of other veterans who have troubles during the Fourth of July. But he still questions what restricting firework discharge by 30 minutes really accomplishes, as well as if people will actually stop lighting fireworks at 10:30 p.m.
In his opinion, having an ordinance with a 10:30 p.m. limit is simply unnecessary.
“Keep in mind that I am by no means somebody special, but instead someone else who grew up in Neligh with an opinion,” he said. “If you do not agree with my opinion, than you are respectfully entitled to whatever you feel. Call me old fashioned, but why change?”