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Memorial Day honors our heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It is also a time to honor those serving in the military today. Montana has a long history of military service and tradition. As Montanans know all too well, this proud tradition of military service comes with a price.

For generations of Montana families, the price has been the loss of a father or son, mother or daughter, brother or sister. Most of those lost died in battle, but some, like Chris Dana, a young Montana National Guard soldier, commit suicide. In response to Chris Dana's death, Gov. Brian Schweitzer ordered then-Adjutant General Randall Mosley to begin an immediate effort to ensure no other Montana National Guard family suffered as Chris Dana's had.

The Montana National Guard developed and has fully implemented under the leadership of Adjutant General John E. Walsh, a Yellow Ribbon Program, which has since been adopted nationally.

The YRP is a comprehensive effort to address deployment issues facing our citizen soldiers, their families and employers throughout the deployment cycle. An aggressive regimen of assessment, education and resource coordination for soldiers and for all levels of National Guard leadership has resulted in an acute awareness of the challenges of deployment and the application of effective strategies to mitigate and resolve those challenges. Montanans can be proud that the United States Congress and the Department of Defense in Washington have looked to our Montana Yellow Ribbon Program as the blueprint for the national response to these issues.

Montanans understand the value of service, service to our country, our state, our community and to each other. The military experience holds many valuable lessons. I, for one, was a headstrong young man when I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1955. The Corps taught me the lessons of commitment and discipline.

Our Montana soldiers apply that same commitment and discipline to their service, whether it be national wartime deployments, responding to an emergency here at home or responding to international relief efforts. But our soldiers also bring that same commitment to their civilian lives. Our soldiers raise families, build communities and contribute to our Montana economy. Please join the governor and me in thanking them for accepting the call to service at home and abroad.

Thank you for your commitment to making the YRP a success, such a success that it is now the national model - making a difference for thousands of men and women in uniform. Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart.

God bless all our men and women in uniform this Memorial Day and every day, and may a special blessing be given to all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. They will never be forgotten.

 

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