Sean Gifford fought in the Iraq War and now, as a veteran studying at Montana State University, he’s impressed by how the Bozeman area makes veterans feel welcome.
“I’ve never seen a community support its veterans as much as here,” said Gifford, 29, president of the new Student Veterans Club at MSU. “It’s pretty amazing. President Cruzado supports it 100 percent. It’s a nice place to be.”
Friday is Veterans Day, and local communities are planning several events to honor the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces.
All day Friday, volunteers will gather at MSU to read aloud the names of more than 6,200 U.S. troops who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. MSU is one of 175 colleges nationwide participating in the first-time event, the Remembrance Day National Roll Call.
Names of fallen troops will be read in chronological order from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Leigh Lounge in the Strand Union Building. A minute of silence will be observed at noon. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., will be keynote speaker at a remembrance ceremony at 4 p.m.
“People need to realize what veterans have done for this country,” said Brenda York, director of MSU’s disability, reentry and veterans services office. “They put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The roll call will be streamed live on MSU’s website, said Robin Mayer of MSU’s office of community involvement. MSU is seeking more volunteers to read names for about 15 minutes each. Anyone on or off campus who’d like to participate can call 994-6902 or sign up through the community involvement website, www.montana.edu/community.
“We’re very proud Bozeman was chosen to represent Montana” in the roll call, Mayer said. An orientation for volunteer readers will be held Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Veterans Center in the SUB.
Montana senior groups will honor veterans by pledging to do more than 145,000 hours of volunteer community service. Pledge cards will be displayed at the MSU roll call event Friday. To add a pledge card, visit the Retired Senior Volunteer Program website, www.rsvpmt.org.
The Student Veterans Club at MSU will hold its first 5k and 10k run to raise money for the domestic violence shelter Haven. The club already has lots of volunteers and is looking for runners to participate, said Gifford, who is one of 526 student veterans at MSU.
The races are open to all. To register, visit online racemontana.com or register at 7 a.m. on the north side of the SUB. Races start at 8 a.m. The cost is $25 for 5k or $30 for 10k. Participants are also asked to bring used cell phones to donate to Haven, which either resells them or uses them as 911 phones for clients. Cell phones can also be dropped off in the Veterans Center in the basement of the SUB.
The American Legion in Bozeman will hold its traditional events, starting with a free breakfast from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Friday upstairs at the new Legion building downtown, 225 E. Main St., said Tom Jones, general manager. The Legion will decorate Main Street downtown with American flags.
From 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Legion will hold a memorial ceremony at the All-Veterans Memorial in Sunset Hills Cemetery.
At 4:30 p.m. Friday, a public flag dedication ceremony will be held at the Bozeman Public Library in the northeast memorial grove dedicated to Sgt. Travis Atkins of Bozeman, who was killed in action. A local Eagle Scout, Nelson Brown, has installed a new flagpole. Attending will be Mayor Jeff Krauss, Tester, American Legion members, Boy Scout Troop 675 and Atkins’ family.
On Sunday, Nov. 13, at 9 a.m., Big Sky Chapel will hold a service to honor veterans, starting with a procession of flags. Photos of service members will be displayed; photos can be dropped off before Sunday. A homily will be given by retired Adm. William Fallon, who headed U.S. Central Command, directing all U.S. military operations in the Middle East, central Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gail Schontzler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2633.