When Memorial Stadium was built in 1923, it was not meant for just football. It was meant to honor those who serve, have served and fell while serving. For Barb Yllescas and her daughter Jennifer, this rings true and means more to them than most know.
Memorial Stadium stands tall on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. While the stadium is a hot spot for football in Nebraska, it also was originally designed in honor of Nebraska's veterans and fallen soldiers. On each corner of the stadium is a quote from former UNL philosophy professor Hartley Burr Alexander. On the Southeast corner: "In Commemoration of the men of Nebraska who served and fell in the Nations Wars." On the Southwest corner: "Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory." On the Northwest corner: "Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport." On the Northeast corner: "Their Lives they held their country’s trust; They kept its faith; They died its heroes."
Barb Yllescas, 64, holds an image of her son Captain Robert Yllescas and a Gold Star Service Flag at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Robert was a captain and army ranger before he passed away at the age of 31 from his battle injuries on Dec. 1, 2008.
Barb holds an image of Robert close to her chest inside of Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Robert was a captain at Camp Keating along the Pakistani and Afghan border. The camp was working on a nearby bridge which detonated as Robert was crossing it. He managed to survive from Oct. 28, 2008 until Dec. 1, 2008, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital when his mother made the decision to stop the machines keeping him alive.
Barb and her daughter Jennifer, 38, remove a towel protecting Robert's folded flag inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. According to Barb, the flag has not left her home in Traynor, Iowa since she received it after her son's death.
Barb and her daughter Jennifer, left, holds Robert's folded flag inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Barb graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science and a degree in special education. Jennifer is currently a student at Southeast Community College studying nursing.
Barb and Jennifer hold up Robert's folded flag inside of Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Barbara said her son Robert also graduated from UNL with a degree in Agronomy. She also reported that Robert had always wanted to join the military, even at the young age of six years old.
Jennifer holds up a note she found on her windshield five years after Robert's death at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The note reads, " I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for giving him to save us all." According to Jennifer, being the oldest of four, Robert was the leader of the group and her mentor. His fellow soldiers referred to him as "Captain America" because of his hardworking and get-up-and-go nature.
Jennifer holds up an image of herself from when she was in the U.S. Marines at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Jennifer joined the Marines after she graduated high school to, "make a difference," Jennifer said. While studying nursing at SCC, Jennifer also works as a health technician at Lincoln East High School where her two daughters, Sarah, 17, and Abby, 16, attend high school.
Barb rests her hand on the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action chair inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The chair is there to honor all those soldiers who were lost in combat with fates remaining unknown. According to Barb, this is just another effort Nebraska has made to, "remember those who lost their lives in war and that a soldier doesn't die twice. They are never forgotten."
Jennifer and Barb show Robert's Honor and Remember Flag, an image of him and a shell casing from his funeral at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. To the Yllescas, Robert was one of the greatest fans in college football. He nicknamed a camp he was stationed in "Camp Husker" and ensured that he never missed watching a Husker game, despite being overseas.
Robert's memorabilia is piled on a table at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The pile includes an image of Robert, a Gold Star Service Flag, a note Jennifer received after his death and a shell casing from Robert's funeral. After she lost her brother, Jennifer said, "It was like losing a part of me. A very big part of me; like an arm or a leg.”
Barb holds up her Gold Star locket with an image of Robert and his two daughters on the back at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Barb is a member of the American Gold Star Mothers Incorporation where she volunteers to help veterans and their families. To Barb, she loves being able to help others who have had similar experiences but has found a caveat. "It really is great that we do all of [the volunteering] but sometimes it is just so difficult to be [a Gold Star Mother]."