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Veterans honored for their service


November 12, 2019

Havre Daily News / Jack Lambert

Veterans Honor Guard members fire off blanks while performing a rifle salute during the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 497 Veterans Day Ceremony in town square in Havre on Monday.

Havre Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 497 held an outdoor ceremony in frigid weather Monday at the Veterans Memorial in Town Square followed by a free lunch at the Havre Elks Lodge to celebrate and commemorate veterans who have or are currently serving in the United States military. 

"Whenever and however you have served, Nov. 11 is for you," former Elks Lodge Grand Exalted Ruler and U.S. Navy submarine force Vietnam veteran Bob Nieuwenhuyse said. "It's a chance for all of us to say a sincere thank you for your service and, by way of tribute, express our heartfelt gratitude to those of our dedicated veterans who paid the ultimate price."

The memorial started with a rifle salute and taps performed by an honor guard made up of a combination of members from American Legion Post 11, VFW post 497 and other veterans followed by a free community lunch and a presentation by the American Legion, VWF and Elks Club at the Havre Elks Lodge.

Nieuwenhuyse said Nov. 11 is a time to observe and recognize the countless men and women those have served in the armed forces. He added that the military is deployed in more than 150 countries across the globe and has nearly 300,000 active members serving. Throughout history, only about 7 percent of the population in the United States have served and sacrificed their lives so people can enjoy their freedoms.

"Some gave all, but all gave some," he said.

"If it had not been for their service, we wouldn't have the precious freedoms that we have today, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech and the freedom of religion," he said in an interview after the presentations. "Without the sacrifice of veterans, we wouldn't have those unalienable rights."

Although Veterans Day is only one day, it's an important day, he said. It is not just the sacrifice of those who have served, but their families as well.

Current Elks Lodge Grand Exalted Ruler Kyle Leeds said that seeing all of the veterans together, hearing their stories, is a humbling feeling.

"Myself not being a veteran, I greatly respect the time and the effort that all these fine folks have given to protect ours and make the United States the greatest country in the world," he said.

VFW Post Commander Bill Tucker, a U.S. Army veteran, said during the presentations that he is thankful for the people who came out to support the veterans throughout the years. 

"We celebrate this day in honor of all veterans past, present and to give honor to those that will follow in our footsteps in securing our nation's freedom," he said.

He said that, on behalf of himself and other veterans, it was an honor to serve the people.

In an interview, Tucker said he served in the Army from 1983 to 1996, and, as a veteran, Veterans Day is a very emotional day.

"To me it's just an opportunity to express thanks and gratitude to the sacrifices veterans have made," he said.

He added that he feels that the general public has less of an understanding the sacrifice veterans have made. He said that for the first six years of his army career, he was in training exercises for 200 or more days out of the year, spending a week with his wife and children before going back to training and exercises for the majority of each month.

He served in Operation Desert Storm for 9 months, he said, and during those 9 months he was only allowed to make three phone calls, each 10 minutes long, to speak with his family. Other than the phone calls, all communication with his family was through letters and packages, he added.

"Those are some of the sacrifices that service members make that the general public never sees," he said.

He added that veterans of previous wars, such as Vietnam, Korea and World War II, had even less communication opportunities. He said this aspect of sacrifice is quickly fading with the introduction of technology, cell phones and computers providing more opportunities for active service members to communicate with their families. 

"It was an honor for me to get to serve," he said, adding that he was medically discharged after serving for 13 years and from his time in the service he found a new appreciation for the country.

"For me, serving outside of the country was an eye-opening experience to see how well we actually have it here in our country," he said. "You take it for granted, what all we have and what freedoms we have and all we are blessed with."

Nieuwenhuyse said that, as a veteran, he finds Veterans Day an important time to salute and thank all those who have served, some giving the ultimate sacrifice, dying while in combat.

As a representative of Elks Lodge, he said, the Elks nationwide are proud of the veterans who have served.

"As long as there is a veteran, the Order of Elks will do everything possible to make sure they are comfortable and they are recognized for their service," he said.

Havre Daily News / Jack Lambert

Les Johnson stands at the end of the line and plays the last notes of the rifle salute off of his trumpet during the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 497 Veterans Day Ceremony at town square in Havre on Monday.

Leeds said that the Elks Lodge is doing some special things for veterans this year for Veterans Day and throughout the holiday season, such as having military edition Bibles available for veterans and having a veteran Giving Tree for Christmas. Veterans can sign up in the following month for the veteran Giving Tree at the Elks Lodge. People need to give their names, addresses and phone numbers as well as a list of things they need and people in the community will donate and collect those items and have them delivered before Christmas.

"Although Veterans Day is just one day, it's an important day, a day for all of us to speak up for those who put their lives on the line," he said.

Catholic Daughters of America organizer Sue Swan of Havre said that the Catholic Daughter have delivered Veterans Day cards to a number of veterans across north-central Montana, including Glendive, Columbia Falls and Great Falls. She said that it is important veterans know they are appreciated. She added that the Catholic Daughters is also doing Christmas cards for veterans and people who are interested can call her at 265-5703. 

Catholic Daughters meet at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at St. Judes Thaddeus Church.

Swan said she appreciates veterans and the sacrifices they have made, with her father, brother and son-in-law all serving in the military.


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