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Honoring those who serve: Bitterroot Valley celebrates Veterans Day

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The Bitterroot Valley celebrated Veterans Day on Friday with school assemblies, parades and ceremonies to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces.

Bells rang out across the valley at 11 a.m. in honor of Armistice Day, signaling the end of World War II at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

The Ravalli County Museum hosted their 33rd annual Veterans Day Observance in Hamilton. The event included a wreath laying ceremony at the Doughboy Statue, followed by a 21-gun salute. Speakers included Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf, Sharon Parks-Banda representing Senator Steve Daines and Shibu Arens on behalf of Senator Jon Tester.

Commander Deb Strickland of American Legion Post 47 was master of ceremonies for the event.

“On this day, Veterans Day, we are commemorating the services of veterans of all wars, and too, those who are on duty today standing watch around the world,” Strickland said. “We remember how many men and women set aside their civilian pursuits to serve their nation’s cause, defending the freedom of mankind and preserving our precious American heritage.”

Special guest, Navy veteran Ron Osborn, talked about his “life changing experience” on an Honor Fight trip to Washington D.C.

He described visiting the different armed services memorials and seeing many popular of the sites in D.C., including the Pentagon.

Osborn was stationed at the Fleet Weather Center from 1953 to 1955, and one of his duties was to periodically deliver weather information to the Navy Department in the Pentagon. In his speech, Osborn lamented the Sept. 11 attack on the building.

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Chaplain Nancy Dezell lights the candle at a table set for POWs at the Ravalli County Museum's 33rd annual Veterans Day Observance.

“On 9/11, Another day that will live in infamy, American Airlines flight 77 was hijacked and flown into the side of the building, penetrating into the third or middle ring, killing 184 people on the plane and inside the building.”

Osborn went on to describe the memorial, and how its design honors those who lost their lives that day.

As impressive as the sites in D.C. were for the group of veterans, Osborn described his time at Arlington National Cemetery as the most significant portion of his trip.

“Arlington Cemetery is 639 acres and is the resting place for over 400,000 veterans and their families,” Osborn said. “The visit there was the most significant part of our honor flight. Especially in my personal experience, helping to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Four of us vets participated in placing the fourth wreath of the day. Under the meticulous instructions of the honor guard, two of us pushed two others in wheelchairs to lay the wreath at the tomb. Needless to say, I’ve never been so honored.”

Many of the schools across the valley held celebrations on Friday as well. Corvallis Middle School held an assembly followed by American Legion Post 91’s annual Parade of Veterans down Main Street. In Hamilton, veterans and their families joined students at the packed high school gym to honor those who have served. Over 1,600 people were in attendance.

“Veterans have striven to give us freedom, security and the greatest nation on earth,” Strickland said. “It is impossible to put a price on that. We must always remember and appreciate them.”

Reporter Michelle McConnaha contributed to this story.

A special Veterans Day in the Bitterroot Valley

Over 70 veterans, their families and about 1600 school children filled the Hamilton High School gym on Friday as the school honored the military efforts of the individuals who served. The gym was quiet as the audience and veteran guests stood for the retiring of the colors by the Marine Corps League.

Jessica Abell is the editor of the Ravalli Republic.

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