HELENA – Local veterans’ service organizations came together in Helena Saturday, to recognize fallen servicemembers and to support their families.
Montana Joining Community Forces, a coalition of service providers and volunteers, hosted a community resource fair at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. The event brought together Gold Star families – the families of fallen military members – with veterans and others from around the area.
“An event like this allows the Gold Star families to get reconnected not only with the military community, but with the broader community at large, to let them know they’re still not alone and they’re still supported by their communities,” said Tabitha Garvin-Betancourt, a JCF representative.
The day began with the “Honor the Fallen” run-walk. Those participating carried cards with the names and pictures of more than 200 fallen servicemembers from around Montana. Some of the walkers were family members, while others came for different reasons.
“Other veterans came to honor a brother in arms, and we have those from the community who just want to show their respect to those who’ve given their lives in service to their country,” Garvin-Betancourt said.
Pamela Braach came in from Philipsburg to take part in the event. She was supporting a close friend who is a Gold Star family member.
“Even the family members have never been forgotten,” she said. “We honor them as well as their family member that has fallen.”
After the run, the cards were placed on an “Honor Wall.”
“Anyone from the community could come in and view the names of these servicemembers that we are honoring today,” said Garvin-Betancourt.
Organizers then held a memorial service, where those in attendance observed a moment of silence for the fallen. Members of Gold Star families were presented with roses.
The Mission Valley Honor Guard presented the colors, and the Magpie Drummers performed traditional songs as the flags were brought in.
After the memorial, the resource fair inside the fairgrounds exhibit hall opened to veterans and their families. More than 90 organizations were on hand, providing everything from medical assistance and counseling to help with housing and employment.
“Having all those services under one roof just streamlines the process of accessing support,” Garvin-Betancourt said.
Garvin-Betancourt said this was the third time Montana Joining Community Forces has held an Honor the Fallen event, but the first time they combined it with a resource fair.
“I’m very glad with the way it’s turned out,” she said. “The support from the community has been fantastic, and we had a great number of Gold Star families.”
Braach said this event was an important reminder of the needs servicemembers and their families have.
“They need our support in many ways, once they go over, once they come back,” she said. “And for families who have lost veterans, we need to always be there for them, to let them know that their family member will never be forgotten.”