HELENA — On Wednesday Capital High students honored Montana veterans with custom knives the students made in their machining class.
This act of gratitude was a collaboration between Capital High and Big Hearts Under the Big Sky program. Big Hearts is a program by the Montana Outfitters & Guides Association. They provide outdoor adventures to those who have given exceptional service to the country and to children with life-threatening illnesses.
John Quintrell of Helena is a Vietnam Veteran and author of the book “The Wolfhounds.” He was nominated for, and received, a Big Hearts trip this year. He was accompanied by Russ Bruns and Ray Bourgeois. Bruns is from Ulm and is a Purple Heart recipient and was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor. Bourgeois was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart.
All three men served with Company C of the 2nd Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment, nicknamed the "Wolfhounds," of the 25th Infantry. More information about the Wolfhounds can be found here.
Austin Burk, a student at Capital High, helped create the homemade knives. Burk finds it important to honor those who have come before us and learn from what they’ve done.
“It's good to not forget history. If we forget history, we are bound to repeat it,” said Burk.
Quintrell is thankful for the gift and believes that the students gained more than simply a skill in machinery.
“These take a lot of work,” Quintrell said. “They learned a lesson and it wasn't on how to make a knife. They learned a lesson on what it was like to give.”
In addition to receiving these knives, the veterans were also gifted a trip to the backcountry to hunt Elk and met with elected leaders at the State Capitol.
Quintrell couldn’t be more grateful for the gift of quality time with his old friends.
“It was the time we had together, and along with the other family that was there, it was magic. You know, you've got to understand, these two guys and I, that was over 50 years ago and now to be able to be reunited and spend the kind of quality time together. It was magic,” he explained.
More information about Big Hearts Under the Big Sky, including ways to support their mission, can be found on their website.