Whitefish students and community members paid tribute to veterans during a ceremony Friday ahead of Veterans Day.
Held in the Whitefish High School gymnasium, the ceremony featured the high school drumline, chorus and orchestra, as well as remarks from local veterans Pete Akey and Anna Deese and a message from Sen. Jon Tester’s office.
Akey has served in the military for nearly 20 years, is a combat veteran and continues to serve in the National Guard.
He served nine years as an enlisted infantryman after joining the U.S. Army in 1999, became an officer and has recently been selected to return to Officer Candidate School and help teach the Montana Army National Guard’s next crop of officers.
He is the senior vice president at Glacier Bank and a Whitefish High School graduate.
Deese enlisted in the military in 1997, went through basic and advanced training to become a chemical operations specialist and graduated from Airborne and Officer Candidate School.
She is a member of the Whitefish School Board and is the associate director of Project CRISS, and educational consulting and professional development company.
Both Akey and Deese stressed the diversity of the nation’s military, in people and in the roles they play.
“I want you to think about ‘typical,’” Akey told the crowd. “Take a few second while we stand here awkwardly and think about the types of jobs that are in the military. Did you picture someone with a rifle, crawling through mud? Maybe a pilot? Or did you think of someone on a nuclear sub watching a suspicious dot on a sonar screen beeping ominously? What about the soldier behind a different screen ensuring those folks got paid? What about the logistics specialists who are in a far off ware-house ensuring the right supplies get to the sub or the aircraft carrier so that the service members involved are safe and fed?”
“The military is a giant system — all these people are critically interconnected,” Deese added. “Each job is critical.”
“Veterans Day isn’t about any particular way of being a service member. Today isn’t about peace versus war or combat versus support positions. It’s not about where you served or when you served or how you served. It’s not whether you were a volunteer or conscripted.”
Smith Works, a field representative for Tester, also read a prepared message during the celebration.
Josiah Holien closed the ceremony by playing Taps as the Whitefish Boy Scout Troop 1936 retired the colors.
Kerry Drown, WHS principal, noted how in shaky times, coming together to celebrate the nation’s veterans is necessary and provides perspective.
“Getting together like this provides us the opportunity to step back and see the world a little differently. It gives us a chance to put things in perspective, especially after a high profile election, coupled with some recent tragedies from coast to coast,” he said. “But today’s assembly is designed to bring us together, to realize our strength together and celebrate our common thread as Americans, as people of this great country. Let’s celebrate those who have served in our nation’s military in order to provide the freedom, the empowerment and the unity that defines who we are as a nation.”