GREAT FALLS — At Voyagers Stadium, right next to the Montana Veterans Memorial, community members gathered to celebrate those who have served our country on Veterans Day.
The ceremony occurred at 11:00 A.M. on November 11th, representing The Armistice and ending of World War One. A member of the U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club rang the “Bells of Peace” eleven times to signify the beginning of the ceremony.
“So please join me, in saying out loud,” Art Taft, U.S. Navy Veteran said, holding up a clipboard with “THANK YOU” printed on the back, “Thank you!”
Also partaking in the event was the “Sound of the Falls” Chorus, who sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. Cadets in the USAF Junior ROTC program lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, as veterans ranging from World War Two to post-Nine-Eleven were admired for their courage and dedication to the country, serving in ways most Americans could never imagine.
“While the utopian idea of a society without war is appealing, let us not forget that wars have liberated slaves, have stopped genocide, and toppled terrorists,” Roger A. Hagan, Chief Master Sgt. Retired, MANG said.
While it is important to thank those in uniform who have served, Veterans Day is also a time to give of yourself to other people, serving those around you.
“I would encourage our next generation, or, those young ladies and young men out there, to serve our nation in some way, and if you can do it best in uniform, do that,” Richard Liebert, Montana Veterans Memorial Association Ceremony Director, Lieutenant Col. retired, Army said, “If you want to serve locally in a nonprofit, that’s good. But serve your community. We need future leaders, we need future followers. We got to serve the nation in war, in peace, in uniform, and out of uniform. If you can’t serve, then there are other ways you can serve your community.”
The ceremony took time to praise the efforts of military working dogs, whos impact in the military can often go unrecognized. Army Veteran Nick Morrison talked about his childhood dog Pal, who served in World War Two and has a memorial square at the Montana Veterans Memorial.
“They willingly walk by our side, protecting us until their last breath,” Rachel M. Shelter, Tech Sgt., USAF said, “Their capabilities are unmatched by that of humans, their devotion is thankless, their service sometimes unrecognized.”
Martina Gunter, USAF veteran with her service dog Willie spoke about Dog Tag Buddies, a program built to help strengthen the bond and quality of life between service dogs and veterans.
“I encourage you to not suffer in silence or self-isolate,” Gunter said, “If you are struggling definitely reach out to this program and it will definitely help you live a more fulfilled and full life.”
Great Falls is a military town. Even if you are not personally involved in the military, Liebert stresses that there are ways you can help the veterans around you.
“I think just some of the basic things, like if you know someone who’s had mental health issues and tell them about the new phone number, 988,” Liebert said, “Or maybe they can reach out and get a service dog, that’s why they have Dog Tag Buddies.”
After the ceremony, many community members walked over to the memorial and took time to reflect and read the names of those who have died serving our country.