It took Lt. Col. Dennis Meredith courage and strength to serve in the Vietnam war in 1969 and 1970 with the 7th and 8th artillery units. But to have a 28-year career serving in Vietnam, Germany and at Fort Sill in Oklahoma — that took good ol' Nebraska grit.
He was a man of the military, a trained engineer, an ROTC instructor and a student.
He spent his undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska at Omaha as a part of the bootstrap program after serving in Vietnam. His wife, Laurell Meredith, said UNO seemed to really care about his education.
"When he was writing the standard letter to get accepted into the program, the other schools were perfunctory, but UNO plotted out a whole curriculum for him," Laurell said. "Denny said, 'That's where we're going, that's for sure.'
"As a teacher, I was impressed that there was total individual attention."
Although neither Laurell nor Dennis were Nebraska natives, Laurell said the state evokes special memories for them. While there, her husband was challenged by his studies but thoroughly enjoyed them, she said.
"The whole community of Omaha really did welcome the veterans," she said. "We had such happy memories there, and Denny really wanted to honor the group that he was with in Vietnam."
In 2001, Laurell and Dennis established the Meredith B/7-8 FA Scholarship Fund through their estate plans to assist students interested in higher education at a military-friendly school.
Following Dennis' death in 2013, Laurell wanted to see the scholarship benefit students during her lifetime. In 2015, she created an endowed fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation, so the Meredith B/7-8 FA Scholarship could be awarded while she was still living.
"I thought, I want to see some action here," Laurell said. "Even if it begins as a smaller amount, maybe it will grow."
At a recent reunion of the battalion, she read aloud the letter from the latest recipient of the scholarship.
Laurell described the recipient as having the ideal situation for the scholarship. He was in a bind and was so close to graduating but didn't have the GI benefits and financial help he needed. The Meredith B/7-8 FA Scholarship enabled him to succeed.
"It was really nice to know that we helped somebody achieve a goal," she said. During his career in the military, Laurel said, her husband was always helping others. She described him as a people-oriented person who looked out for the troops.
Dennis died March 26, 2013, living 14 years after suffering an aortic aneurysm. Laurell said the scholarship fund is an important way for her husband's legacy to live on while serving as a tribute to the people who served their country so faithfully and so well.
"I'm glad I have this sort of memorial to him, and you know I still miss him. He's still a part of my life," she said. "I just feel like this is a legacy he would've been proud of."