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Veterans gathered on Friday to salute the American flag, hear stories of service and ring the bell for peace.

A Veterans Day ceremony convened at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, where Lockwood Middle School's eighth-grade band provided the music and multiple speakers reflected on American service members.

“Our veterans have given us so very, very much," said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. "The freedoms we enjoy today are a direct result of your sacrifice and dedication.” 

Tester, a Democrat, is Montana’s only member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Seated in the foyer of the arena, veterans of all branches took part in the event. After Tester's comments, representatives spoke on behalf of the two other members of Montana's congressional delegation.

"Today, as we spend time with our family and friends, let us not forget those who are in harm's way," said Nathan Adams, a Navy veteran and spokesman for Sen. Steve Daines.

Reading a letter from U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, Alex Sterhan said Montana leads the nation with roughly one in 10 residents serving in the armed forces. Zinke himself served in the Navy.

"This Veterans Day, and every day, I salute my brothers and sisters in arms and their families for their selfless service and sacrifice in the defense of our Constitution and the preservation of the liberties that we enjoy," Sterhan said.

The event's keynote speaker was Lt. Col. Daniel Hargrove, a retired Air Force pilot whose record includes piloting Air Force Two on Sept. 11, 2001. He's now director of aviation at Rocky Mountain College.

Hargrove spoke about the core values learned in the military, and how they remain ingrained in service members long after active duty. He said that while flying in the Air Force, he set lofty standards. It was sometimes a rough road to meet them.

He told the audience that within the core values learned in service is the idea that meeting high standards is the standard.

"The Air Force instilled in me excellence in all we do," Hargrove said. "Excellence is its own reward."

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.