BILLINGS — Veterans of the U.S. armed forces were honored at Veterans Park in Billings Wednesday in a scaled-back ceremony that included remarks from local, state and federal officials and a wreath-laying ceremony.
The ceremony is usually a larger affair held on Veterans Day at the Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel. This year, the event was split into two smaller ceremonies in Billings and Laurel to prevent COVID-19 spread.
While standing on top of the veterans monument in the park, remarks were given by Billings Mayor Bill Cole, Gov.-Elect Greg Gianforte and representatives from both Sens. Steve Daines and John Tester's offices.
“Veterans Day is a great opportunity to return the favor and say to our veterans, we know that you have our back and it’s our turn to say to you that we have your back," Cole said.
Gianforte offered a similar statement of thanks, saying Americans owe their freedom to veterans.
“All of us have veterans in our lives. You are our friends, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our coworkers. Because of your sacrifice, we enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country. We can never fully repay the debt that we owe you, but we can say thank you. And that’s what we do here on Veterans Day," Gianforte said.
Sue Davidson, chaplain of the Billings chapter of Disabled American Veterans, spoke a prayer near the top of the ceremony. She called for unity among Americans because they owe it to the country's service members.
“We cannot let our disagreements tear apart our great country which so many have shed their blood for, our wonderful freedoms we’ve been fighting for. We are still the United States of America and one nation, under you, oh God. United we stand and divided we fall. We cannot fail and we cannot fall," Davidson said.
The Eugene Sara Detachment of the Marine Corps League presented the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance, which was recited by Merissa Underwood, Miss Montana 2020.
Members of the VFW Post 6774 volley team fired three shots directly followed by a rendition of the military anthem "Taps" played by a bugler.
Vietnam veteran Dave Rye placed a wreath on the monument in the park, a symbol thanking veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.