A Salute to Our Troops from The United States of Hope

Editor’s note: From time to time, we invite a representative from one of Missoula’s many non-profits to write about how their organization serves our community and how our community can, in turn, support our many worthwhile non-profit organizations.


It is now close to a century since the “war to end all wars,” World War I, ended. So terrible was this war that when the peace accords were drafted, the nations thought this would be the last war mankind would face. The date to end this war was November 11, 1918 and it became a national holiday, Armistice Day, which over time was re-named Veterans’ Day.

Despite the best intentions of our ancestors, American servicemen and women have gone into war again and again since that great war, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Africa. We have witnessed in Montana incredible tales of sacrifice and service alongside stories about the terror of war. Our state and our citizens continue to lead the way for our Veterans.

Less than 1% of Americans serve in the military today but Montana has a proud tradition of military service. Our state has one of the highest populations of Veterans per capita. Recent local events have seen Montana citizens stand up for our Veterans.

On Saturday November 5, The University of Montana held a Military Appreciation Day during the Griz football game. I was one of the several hundred Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen that held the flag as two F-15 fighter jets thundered overhead, the crowd roared to the National Anthem, and the flag waved across the football field. We all felt goosebumps and the appreciation of this wonderful community.

Just the night before, Grateful Nation and the University of Montana unveiled the Fallen Soldier Memorial dedicated on campus; a beautiful and permanent reminder that freedom isn’t free.

Earlier this fall, several hundred citizens gathered in Missoula at the Armed Forces Center on September 10th to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and commemorate the service of Montana men and women that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civilians helped organize this event, ordinary moms and dads who believe in our young men and women in uniform.

General Walsh, in his keynote speech, applauded the families of the military as the “force behind the force.” Mayor Engen spoke about the importance of community service. Tributes to the fallen Montanans were emotional and striking.

Today is Veterans’ Day and the nation will pause to remember our Veterans as banks close, Veterans march in parades, and families talk at the dinner table about their sons and daughters and whether they will be home for the holidays. Montana will be hosting several activities across the state.

With the national economy and the issues facing Veterans, I will continue to work to find new housing and income and job opportunities for Vets, as times are tough on our hard-working Montanans. I will pause to reflect and think about my unit in Afghanistan and to pray for them, as well as my cousin SFC Thomas, who has left behind his new baby and family for a fourth combat tour.

I will wrestle with the issues of guilt, service, and sacrifice from my combat experience that I suspect many other Veterans wrestle with on this holiday. I will probably enjoy the free lunch at the Old Post of good food and drink with Post #101 and the dinner at Applebee’s with my Veteran friends. We are thankful for the businesses that do such things.

But mostly, I will reflect.

As we do these wonderful and patriotic things and we seek to remember, honor, and encourage we also must be reminded there is much work to be done as Veterans re-integrate back into communities. The plague of Veteran homelessness is a national shame. 12.5% of our young men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed, and many more are under-employed. Jobs and housing continue to be a challenge for those that have worn the uniform, challenging the integrity of our communities and nation. Families that bear the costs of war are often broken, and support systems for our Veterans are not what they should be. We are all more aware now of the costs of war both seen and unseen.

While it is good to pat a returning soldier on the back, buy him a coffee or drink, and throw a support the troops sticker on our vehicle, we should ask ourselves as citizens (and yes, within the Veteran community as well) what can we do to solve these issues facing our Veterans? They will remain with us as long as America continues to engage in wars. A united community that serves those in need is a good place to start. Veterans who have been prosperous, give back to your communities. Communities that have been prosperous, give back to your Veterans.

This Veterans’ Day, we honor our Veterans for serving our country in uniform. We also remember and trust that they will continue to serve our country as teachers, civil servants, farmers, business owners, and leaders of the next great generation. Collective gratitude as well as service can be contagious. Despite all the challenges we face we have much to be grateful for.

Enjoy your Veterans’ Day!

Samuel Pascal Redfern
Iraq Combat Veteran
Sergeant, US Army


For more Veterans’ Day coverage, see UM student Patrick Record’s reflections on the new Fallen Soldier Memorial, a multimedia piece on the Remembrance Day National Roll Call Ceremony, and a Veterans’ Day Photo Gallery by the UM photojournalism students.


Sam Redfern was an original founder and serves as the director of The United States of Hope. USOH is a Montana-based organization, serving over 5,000 civilian and military supporters nationwide and dozens of clients locally each month. USOH has a 100 percent volunteer staff of ten citizens who are passionate about their work.

With the support of private donors and volunteers, USOH has been involved in local Veterans’ Day events, University Programs, Memorial Day events, Stand Downs, Christmas 4 Vets, Veterans Courts, and the memorial for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 in Missoula. We build our community by supporting military families and children impacted by war and disaster, and bridging the gap between civilian and veteran populations with special events and programs. Learn more about us on our Facebook page. To donate or volunteer, please visit the United States of Hope website or stop by our office in Missoula at 2400 Garfield Avenue.