Veterans' families receive military honors years after service
BILLINGS – Some military veterans with Montana ties are finally getting the formal recognition for their service to our country. On Monday, that all changed when Senator Jon Tester awarded each veteran's family their service medals.
It was an emotional ceremony for the generations left behind, like Ray Meder who received the award on behalf of his father Raymond. Ray says war had a profound effect on his father.
"He never would talk about it. I think he was looking some kind of forgiveness because he told me war is terrible," said Ray Meder.
During the last years of Raymond's life, his father told him he had fought in Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge. He even covered his commanders body all night, after coming under enemy fire. But Ray says the most powerful memory his father passed on to him, was seeing people in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau.
"It was, he says one of the most terrible things he has ever seen," recalled Ray.
The family of Raymond Deutscher came from across Montana to honor the memory of the North Dakota native. Raymond was a infantry squadron leader and led troops on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. He was shot and wounded by German soldiers. On Monday, his family was overwhelmed by the recognition.
"This has been so hard to put into words. It's kind of an honor. It's an honor for us, especially when we thought there were one or two, but it turns out there were 8 medals so that's pretty impressive," said Diane Ewell, daughter of Raymond Deutscher.
Dotty Prega was also full of pride and emotion as Senator Tester recalled the memory and service of her brother Joseph Cetnar. In 1941, he enlisted into the army and parachuted into France during the invasion of Normandy.
"It means quite a bit because America is the greatest country in the world and my brother fought very hard to keep it that way and I am very proud of him and I just wish he were here to receive these medals," said Dotty Prega.
The families all say the tokens may be small symbols of their sacrifice and bravery, but their legacy of service will never be forgotten.