Tester receives Montgomery Medal for support of National Guard

by USA Today

At the Montana National Guard Association state conference in Great Falls on Saturday, Montana Senator Jon Tester was awarded the Sonny Montgomery Medal for outstanding support in the pursuit of the National Guard Association’s objectives.

“Senator Tester has tenaciously fought for improvements in pay, healthcare, and quality of life for the citizens who risk their lives in defense of our freedoms,” National Guard Association legislative director, Col. Mike Hadley told the audience at the Great Falls Holiday Inn. “His deep roots in hard work, responsibility and accountability govern is personal work ethic holding himself accountable to the highest standards possible leading to improved transparency at all levels of government. He is a champion of quality health care for all of America’s veterans; no matter where they live.”

The medal is named in honor of former brigadier general and Mississippi congressman, Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery. Montgomery was a World War II veteran, who was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor, Legion of Merit, and Combat Infantry Badge for his service in the European theater of combat. He also served on active duty during the Korean Conflict in the 31st National Guard Infantry Division.

Montgomery was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1966, where he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1967-1997. He was a champion of veterans’ issues and fought for a strong national defense. During his 13 year tenure as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Montgomery established a peacetime GI education bill that now bears his name. The measure is credited with saving the all-volunteer military force by providing education benefits for active duty, National Guard and Reserve members.

Montgomery made 14 trips to Southeast Asia during and after the Vietnam War in support of the troops, and then as leader in efforts to determine the fate of Prisoners of War and the Missing In Action from the conflict. In 1990, he negotiated with the North Korean government to bring home the first set of remains of U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean War.

Defense Secretary William Perry presented Montgomery with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Service in 1995, the highest civilian award given by the Pentagon.

Montgomery died in May, 2006.

Former recipients of the Sonny Montgomery medal include Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia – now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada.

Upon receiving the medal, Tester said, “When disaster strikes here at home, whether its floods, fires, storms or earthquakes, the Montana National Guard is always there to serve and lend out a helping hand to our neighbors. When our Commander in Chief needs to protect our freedoms or train our allies abroad, the Montana National Guard is there to serve and answer the call to duty. I’ve always been inspired by your selfless service, and that is why I’ve been fighting so hard in the United States Senate to support your priorities and push the objectives that will improve safety and opportunity, as well as deliver on this nation’s commitment to you and your families.”