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27-year Air Force veteran honored for volunteer work in Omaha

Posted at 6:59 PM, Sep 26, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Serve Nebraska will host its annual Step Forward Awards next week — where some of the state’s top volunteers are recognized for giving back to those in the Cornhusker state.

The 2023 Veteran Volunteer Honoree, Dennis Hynes, lives right here in the metro.

Hynes has served as a docent volunteer at the Durham Museum for more than ten years. Each tour he gives is personalized.

“I’ve got a tablet and I show a lot of pictures to people besides what we have,” Hynes gleamed with pride. “Because some people learn by listening, some people learn by touching, some people learn by looking.”

He even dresses the part when called for.

“When you’re in costume and they’re in costume it just makes it a little bit more real for them,” he said. “It makes it more valuable — I think they get more out of it.”

Hynes served in the United States Air Force for 27 years before freely giving his time and efforts to the Durham Museum.

“My first operational assignment was in B-52s. This was back during the Vietnam War.”

Though the draft was in place at the time, Hynes enlisted himself.

“My personal feeling was that I wanted to be in the military. I want to be a part of the solution to problems."

He was stationed in different places all around the world, but with each new location, one thing stayed the same.

“Within a couple months, that group was really your extended family. We all took care of each other, and that’s something that carried through every assignment I was ever on.”

It carried over for Hynes, past retirement as well.

The history nut learned about the opportunity to volunteer at the Durham Museum and decided to go check it out.

“And then I got that base, warm, fuzzy feeling that this was good,” he remembers.

The rest is history. Now he lives for that connection he is able to build with the public, especially with the future generation.

“When you see a class, you can tell when they get it. Their little faces light up.”

Hynes is also responsible for organizing private tours for service members from the USS Omaha. Something he looks forward to doing every year.

“Your own ship is remembered here and is on display for the folks — that’s a real nice touch to these guys,” he said. “It makes them think, ‘Thank goodness, the American people are behind us.’ Because sometimes they don’t get that touch.”

Volunteering is in Hynes blood, along with the other volunteers at the museum. He says it’s what keeps the city vibrant.

“Volunteering is good. It makes you as a person feel good, it makes the public feel good, and it helps keep places like this going,” he shared. “And the fact that people give so freely of their time — that’s something special.”

Hynes used to put in a lot of hours at Fontenelle Forest and continues to do work at his church.

The 13-year cancer survivor will be recognized at the Step Forward Awards in Lincoln on Oct. 6, at 11:00 a.m.

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