Tester recognizes Montana veterans in military medals ceremony

by Aja Goare

BILLINGS – Montana is a well known state of service, where roughly one in ten Montanans are veterans.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester has secured more than 800 medals and awards for the nation’s veterans and on Thursday he visited Billings to honor a pair of servicemen who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

William Sampsel and Thomas Rockroadss Jr. were honored by Tester at a ceremony in the Billings federal building.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Honor Guard helped lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Tester offered a history of each of two honorees’ service in the war before awarding distinguishing medals.

Sampsel’s widow accepted a number of medals from the senator on behalf of her late husband.

Sampsel was recognized with medals after his great grandson did a homework assignment about Sampsel who died in WWII.

Sampsel’s grandson found in his research that his great grandfather is remembered as a hero in England, but he never received the medals he earned in the U.S.

“It’s always better to do it while the veteran is alive but in those cases where the veteran has passed, the family deserves that recognition too, because they sacrificed along with that veteran when they were fighting the wars that this country has fought,” said Tester.

Thomas Rockroads of Crow Agency accepted several medals from the senator.

“Bless all of those that have passed on,” said Rockroads, as he accepted his medals.

Rockroads thanked Tester for the recognition with a traditional handmade blanket and a necktie with a red, white and blue symbol that stands for warrior.

Tester was very thankful for the gift and told Rockroad and the audience that he is working to improve the recognition veterans receive for their service.

“I read a small clip of his, Thomas’s, experience in Vietnam and it’s just amazing what these people did under incredible pressure with little regard for their own life, always looking out for someone else’s well being,” said Tester after the ceremony.