Castle Rock celebrates veterans with Gov. Bullock

2013-11-12T23:45:00Z 2013-11-13T08:53:05Z Castle Rock celebrates veterans with Gov. BullockBy ROB ROGERS The Billings Gazette

At the end of the assembly, the two dozen or so veterans gathered at Castle Rock Middle School as guests of honor, stood and shook hands with School District 2 officials and Gov. Steve Bullock and his staff. 

"The brave men and women you've invited here today really exemplify the best of Montana," Bullock told the school. 

One of those veterans was Joe Sanders, who served on a gunboat patrolling rivers in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy. He was a little uncomfortable with all the attention being showered on him and his peers.

But he was also moved by it.

"I'm very honored, very humbled," he said, his voice thick with emotion. "You know, we weren't welcomed home."

To have students and the community, along with the governor and his staff, show gratitude and support for the service and sacrifice of veterans — especially those of his generation — was enough to move him to tears.

It's precisely why the school holds an assembly each November, said Principal Shaun Harrington. It's to honor veterans and their families and show students the importance of service and sacrifice. 

This year, the assembly was part of the national "Take a Veteran to School Day," a program developed by the History Channel. Visiting the school with Bullock was Melissa Shannon, a representative from Charter Communications.

She praised the school's effort to honor the veterans within the Castle Rock community and thanked Bullock for making veterans a priority in his administration.

"He and his staff jumped at the opportunity to come today," she said.  

As the assembly wrapped up, Harrington invited groups of veterans from each of the country's major conflicts to stand up and be recognized, beginning with Gulf conflict veterans and ending with World War II survivors. 

By the time the World War II vets stood, the entire gymnasium stood and cheered them on. 

"As Montanans, we know how important it is to give thanks to the men and women who wore the uniform of our country," Bullock said. "When we bring together our students and our veterans, we pass our commitment to service on to the next generation of Montanans."

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