Montana Standard: Poignant Veterans Day ceremony honors sacrifice and service

by Duncan Adams

Time and again Thursday, speakers expressed concern and compassion for the veterans whose wars have continued long after leaving the battlefield.

David Reisenauer, commander of the United Veterans Council in Butte, pleaded with fellow veterans to find these men and women in the region and bring them into the fold.

“We have resources that are out there for them,” he said.

David Knight, a chaplain for the Civil Air Patrol, also referenced the lingering ramifications of trauma.

“The war still rages in their lives, with terrible effects,” Knight said.

Reisenauer and Knight spoke during a Veterans Day ceremony held in the annex of the Butte Civic Center on a snowy November morning. Roughly 75 people attended and the celebration lasted about an hour.

Another recurring theme was sacrifice, as was evident in remarks by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana.

“This country would not be here today without our fighting men and women – without the enduring sacrifices they’ve made, and the enduring sacrifices their families have made.”

Ed Lester, sheriff of Butte-Silver Bow County, said his father was a World War II veteran.

“That generation literally saved the world,” Lester said.

He said it is fitting that Veterans Day falls so close to Thanksgiving Day.

“Without veterans we wouldn’t have the things we have to be thankful for two weeks from today on Thanksgiving,” Lester said.

Veterans Day evolved from Armistice Day, a date celebrating the end of World War I. That war formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the armistice with Germany took effect. The year was 1918.

In 1954, the celebration was renamed Veterans Day and it honors all U.S. military veterans.

Other speakers Thursday morning included: J.P. Gallagher, chief executive of Butte-Silver Bow County; Cindy Perdue-Dolan, representing U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana; and Brant Bristol, captain, Butte Fire Department.

Cindi Shaw, a member of the Butte Council of Commissioners, sang The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.

Thomas Goyette commanded the honor guard that opened and closed the ceremony. Goyette is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Vietnam Veteran. Many of the honor guard members are 60 years old or older.

After the event, Reisenauer acknowledged that members of the Veterans Council are aging. He said the youngest members at the moment are probably Vietnam Veterans.

Reisenauer said there has not been in influx of veterans from Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Grenada or other wars or conflicts fought in more recent decades.

He said regional veterans organizations stand ready to work with younger veterans and can point them toward a host of helpful resources.

Before the ceremony, Vietnam Veteran Mel Kieninger said Veterans Day provides him time to reflect about the wars fought by this country, about the men and women who have served and about their families.

“As much as I think about the veterans, I think about the families,” Kieninger said.

Knight touched on the same subject. He expressed empathy for the families who had to watch and worry as beloved sons and daughters left home, traveled overseas and braved dangerous situations.

Lester said his recognition of the sacrifices of veterans motivates him to “live a life worthy of the men and woman who have served.”

As the ceremony moved toward a close, “Taps” played. Veterans solemnly saluted. And nothing stirred in the hall but hearts and memories.