Montana's senior U.S. Senator, along with a senatorial candidate, and city and county officials, joined with almost 200 spectators at Missoula's annual Veterans Day tribute on the lawn in front of the Missoula County Courthouse.

The ceremony featured music by Le Grande Harvey, speeches by Senator Max Baucus, senate candidate John Walsh, Missoula Mayor Jon Engen, County Commissioner Jean Curtiss, and American Legion Post 101 commander Dan Gallagher.

photo by Peter Christian

In the crowd was David Thatcher, one of the last four surviving members of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942, when their B-25 bombers took off from an aircraft carrier to attack the Japanese mainland. Thatcher had just returned from a final reunion of Doolittle raiders in Dayton, Ohio.

All held to the theme that veterans from all wars bring home wounds that don't necessarily come with visible scars, wounds to the mind, soul and spirit. Wounds that, left untreated, can lead to self-destructive behavior, or even suicide.

Senator Baucus spoke of his best friend in college who went to Vietnam and came back unrecognizable to his friends and family.

"When I saw Duane, nearly 10 months later, he was not the same Duane," Baucus said. "Right over here in my Missoula office, I received a telephone call from Duane's father, who told me that Duane had been arrested for killing someone with a knife and attacking another person. He went to prison, and now lives in California. It was the terrible psychological trauma, the PTSD, that caused the tragic change in Duane."

Baucus pointed out that something is being done to stem the tide of soldiers returning home so deeply wounded inside. He introduced Matt Kuntz, an Iraq war veteran who was in the crowd.

"Matt's step-brother served in Iraq in the Montana National Guard, but like too many soldiers, Matt's step-brother suffered from the unseen wounds of war and tragically took his own life," Baucus said. "Matt did something about it, working closely with the Montana National Guard to develop a groundbreaking new model for PTSD screening. I was proud to work with Matt to take that Montana National Guard model and take it nationwide, by putting it into the 2010 National Defense Authorization Bill."

Baucus also pointed out the high rate of unemployment among veterans.

"I started off this congress by declaring war against veterans unemployment," Baucus said. "If a soldier can drive a HUMVEE in Afghanistan, he sure as heck can drive a truck in Montana without jumping through the hoops to get a license. I want to make sure from now on, that every veteran comes home to a country worthy of his or her sacrifice."

photo by Peter Christian

Senator Max Baucus: