Montana and the nation are celebrating Veterans Day on Nov. 11, but COVID-19 has changed many observances and commemorations as schools, particularly, work to keep their students and staffs healthy this month. Typically, the Choteau K-6 students, working with their music teacher and classroom teachers, put together a musical program honoring all veterans and then treat the veterans to a coffee and cookies reception. This week none of the county’s elementary schools are holding in-person Veterans Day programs, but they have all come up with other ways to honor the men and women who have served past, present and future in the U.S. armed forces. Choteau Elementary students have crafted display boards to honor the veterans with pictures, poems and letters of thanks. The Choteau American Legion Post 6 and Auxiliary have distributed the display boards around town so that veterans and their families can see them. The boards are located at First Bank Montana, Skyline Lodge, Benefis Teton Medical Center, Choteau Drug, K’s Auto Parts, the Stage Stop Inn, Pivot Physical Therapy, John Henry’s restaurant, the Teton County Courthouse, Old West Lumber, Teton Peak Assisted Living and the U.S. Post Office.

Legion Cmdr. Jerry Collins has put together a short video of the displays, which is now available for viewing on the American Legion’s Facebook page. Additional pictures are on display at the American Legion Hall to salute veterans.

We encourage veterans and the general public to take time this week to check out these displays.

There are 17.4 million U.S. military veterans in America, according to the U.S. Census, and of that total, 85,480 live in Montana.

Every year, when students graduate from Choteau, Power, Fairfield and Dutton/Brady high schools, there are a few intrepid senior girls and boys who join the military. They join the legions who have gone before. In World War I, 40,500 Montanans served their country, and in World War II, 57,000 Montanans served. Many gave their lives. In WWI, 681 Montana soldiers died while 1,234 were killed in action during World War II. Another 350 died in the Korean War (1950-53) and 259 were killed in the Vietnam War (1964-73). Ten Montana soldiers have died in the Afghanistan War and 50 have been wounded in a conflict that started in 2001 and continues today. Twenty-eight Montanans died in the Iraq War (2003-10) and 213 were wounded. For many of those who came home, even without physical wounds, the war left grievous injuries on their psyches.

Veterans Day traces its origin to a cease-fire in World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. President Woodrow Wilson in November 1919, proclaiming Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, said: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” Armistice Day became a federal holiday in 1938, and in 1954, Congress changed the name from “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day.” Let us this Wednesday reflect on the contributions to our freedoms that all veterans have made. Let us say thank you to all who have worn the U.S. military uniform.