BILLINGS — The room was packed inside the Veterans Navigation Network in Billings on Wednesday as Gov. Greg Gianforte presented five area veterans with commendations for community service performed after getting out of the military.
"We didn't pick these individuals. They were nominated by other veterans who recognized them first for service to country and then to community," Gianforte told the crowd of friends and family.
One of the veterans honored was 75-year-old army vet David Gauslow from Laurel who served one year in Vietnam. But for the past six years have had him playing bugle at hundreds of military funerals in the Billings area.
"I'm trying to do it as best I can with as much respect as I can. Because the gentlemen that we are interning at the time, him and his family deserve that," Gauslow said.
Gauslow played "Taps" at 96 military funerals near the Billings area last year.
Another veteran honored was Corry Mordeaux of Huntley who served in the US Army from 1955 to 1982. He was stationed in Korea, then moved to Berlin for the Cold War and spent time in Vietnam leading Special Forces soldiers. But he's also a valued Huntley community member who helps support other vets through the VFW.
"The military is good because it really is a band of brothers. Your people are your people. They stick up for you and watch your back," Mordeaux said.
"We try to help other vets. That's our main goal is to help vets that need some help," he added.
Army vet Blake Fuhriman deployed three times to Afghanistan between 2009 and 2013 and is now a chairperson of the Veterans Navigation Network in Billings.
Fuhriman started the organization in 2019 after he had a tough time adjusting back to civilian life. Veterans Navigation Network helps vets exiting the service connect with VA benefits and other peer support.
"Catch them before they get into those moments of crisis so that suicide never becomes an option. They are on their path to success. They have that camaraderie and that support from other veterans that they meet," Fuhriman said.
He was recognized for his work in helping about 200 local vets find a sense of community.
The other veterans recognized on Wednesday were Chris Engot and Frank Dahl, both from Billings.
Each veteran received a state flag that was flown over the Capitol Building in Helena.