“We the people are still being called to form a more perfect union” -Anthony Aretz | Great Falls observes Veterans Day

Veterans Day has its origins in the end of World War I and is observed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month.

On Saturday, Great Falls honored its veterans and those still serving during the annual ceremony.

Among those in attendance were cadets in the Junior ROTC program, which is based at Great Falls High School, but has expanded to include students from CMR.

Cadets Trinity Taylor, Matthew Pascinta, Logan Rue, Marco Larios and Waylin Dillon attended and some of the cadets participated in the ceremony. They also visited with some veterans at the Montana Veterans Memorial on River Drive.

“It’s an honor to be able to talk to all of them,” Trinity said. “The people you meet and the stories you get to hear. It almost brought me to tears.”

Ceremonies like Saturday’s “really emphasizes the importance of our veterans,” she said.

Honoring and remembering veterans is important, Waylin said. “It we didn’t, it would be a sign of disrespect for everything they’ve given up for us.”

Veterans Day 2017

Great Falls observed Veterans Day during an annual ceremony. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caleb Pierce/341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

Marco said he “enjoyed how our community came together to show support to veterans.”

Trinity said young people like the cadets, and the rest of the community, can volunteer in various ways including fundraising for programs that support veterans and offering time at retirement homes.

“Sometimes they need someone to talk to,” she said.

Marco agreed. “Simple things can warm their hearts,” he said.

As for showing up and thanking veterans on Nov. 11 and every day, it’s a small token of thanks, Trinity said.

“They made the biggest sacrifices. It’s the least we can do, they’re our heroes,” she said.

Anthony Aretz, president of the University of Providence and a retired Air Force officer, said that the crowd of 150 or so was really here to honor those that have paid a tremendous debt.

“We begin our service by taking an oath. We knew this oath would come with sacrifice,” and possibly death, he said.

America still needs service, Aretz said, in the military and other facets of public life.

“We the people are still being called to form a more perfect union,” Aretz said. “The grand idea on which our country was founded is still worth fighting for and it is still worth dying for.”

Sen. Jon Tester said it’s a day to thank those who have served, remember their sacrifice and “the bravery they have shown this nation.”

There is now a generation of young Americans who have known nothing but war, Tester said, and “these battles have taken their toll.”

That means the nation must guarantee healthcare and service to veterans. He said the government has made progress at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and in improving other programs for veterans.

Tester said those who want to privatize the VA cannot prevail since that would be breaking America’s promise to veterans.

“We shouldn’t just be saying thank you today, we should be saying thank you everyday.”

Later in the ceremony, Tester played taps.

John Ranum was drafted in 1959 and served as a member of Company E of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as The Old Guard. They are the sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

He attended Saturday’s ceremony in Great Falls and said it was nice to see so many young people and civilians there to honor the service of the military and veterans in this community.

But something he said that could be improved, as a community and as a nation, is recognizing the service and sacrifice for the family members.

“It’s a big burden for them too,” he said.

Tester encouraged attendees to find ways to volunteer and serve veterans throughout the year.

Like helping with upkeep at the Montana Veterans Memorial on River Drive, or driving vans to help veterans get to their medical appointments at the VA in Helena

“It could be very rewarding,” he said.

Another way to support veterans is to hold Washington, D.C. and the VA accountable, he said.

“If we’re failing, we need to fix it,” he said. But that it’s also important to recognize when the VA is doing things right.

“It’s an incredible honor,” he said to be able, as an elected official, to participate in ceremonies like this one and work on behalf of veterans in Montana.