By Eric Taylor
Papillion Times Managing Editor
A program that has been gaining attention nationwide is starting to pick up momentum around Papillion. Parking spots reserved for wounded veterans are popping up across Papillion and there may be more throughout Sarpy County thanks to the efforts of a Sarpy County leadership team and Wounded Warriors Family Support.
Col. John Folsom, president and founder of WWFS, said the concept has taken off over the last couple of years. “I got the idea a couple of years ago and had 500 signs printed up,” he said. “Then through social media, the idea just took off across the country. That initial order of 500 grew to10,000.”
Several businesses across the metro area have employed the signs, but Matt Smith and his Sarpy leadership group took it a step further. “I had seen some of the signs around Omaha, but never paid much attention to them,” Smith said. “As part of our legacy project, we were touring the ﬁve Sarpy cities and noticed how heavily they were military-themed. We decided to partner with WWFS and get more signs out.”
Thanks to the efforts of Smith and his team (David Klug, Brian Strasser, John Culliver, Autumn Burns and Kevin Fusselman), there are now signs at ﬁve new locations in Papillion (Fricke Field, First Street Plaza, City Hall, Veterans Park and Midtown Mall).
Papillion Mayor David Black said the signs and Papillion were a perfect match. “We have a lot of places with public parking in Papillion and these seemed like appropriate places to have them,” Black said. “We already had poles for them to put the signs on, so this jump-started the process a little bit for them.”
Folsom said the signs not only serve as a parking spot, but an opportunity for veterans to know they are being remembered. “The philosophy of the program was to help wounded vets,” he said. “We have veterans who might have lost a leg and sometimes they wonder if it was worth it. This is a way for people to recognize that sacriﬁce. We can take care of the physical wounds, but this is a way to make sure they understand we appreciate what they’ve done.”
Smith said the leadership group has already approached several businesses throughout the county in hopes of getting more signs put in place. “The signs are donated by WWFS, so we’re basically asking for a $200 donation to get the signs on a pole and put in place,” he said. “We want to put our stamp on this locally. There might be veterans out there who if they see this sign, might encourage them to go to that business. We want to get more recognition for the organization.”