Veterans Day 2023

Observance at the Great Falls Freedom Memorial

Bruce Fein, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Army Reserves, is a native of Great Falls and a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (1994). In his remarks during the  Veterans Day 2023 Observance at the Great Falls Freedom Memorial, he said, “The willingness with which young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars are treated and appreciated by their nation,” Fein said. “I believe America is worth standing for and I thank all of you for standing with me and all veterans.”

Fein served in Baghdad, Iraq, as a U.S. Army Ranger, Airborne, Air Assault Qualified (2003–2004) and received the Bronze Star Medal. He graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 1996 with a Political Science degree and the University of Chicago Law School Juris Doctor (1999).

On Saturday morning, Nov. 11, residents and friends of the Great Falls community gathered at the Freedom Memorial behind the Great Falls Library at 9830 Georgetown Pike to join in the observance to honor all veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Event organizers invited Fein to be the guest speaker. 

According to Fein, Andy Wilson, president of the Friends of the Freedom Memorial and a retired Army Ranger officer, asked Fein to speak at the Veterans Day Observance because Wilson probably did not know many youth from Great Falls who grew up in the community, joined the service, and became veterans. Fein said that he often asks himself why he joined and has well-rehearsed answers.

“[First], I thought I could use the discipline. The second was curiosity and a thirst for adventure. … I knew that taking a bridge after heavy fighting must require a lot of bravery and personal courage, and I wanted to put myself to the test. See if I measured up,” said Fein. “The third reason was that I wanted to contribute to my country in a totally different way from the desk job I knew I was likely to have over the course of my professional career.”

Fein described being surrounded by people in the military while growing up in Great Falls but acknowledged that at the time, he didn’t understand they were setting examples for him and others. “I’m very grateful to them,” Fein said.

While Fein did not want to go to war, he never expected to do so or to fight but just expected to “be ready in case it was necessary.”

“George Washington said that the best way to keep the peace is to be prepared for war, and that made pretty good sense to me,” Fein said. At the time, his greatest aspiration was to go to Airborne School and jump out of planes. “I had no notion of going to war, as I would very soon after graduating from officer basic.”

According to Fein, when he reflected on his three reasons, he realized another unstated but more significant explanation overwhelmed all the others.

“Our military exists to protect our country, and our country is precious and good, right, and worth keeping,” Fein said.  He explained that bravery and courage are virtues only when invested in a good cause, citing that the Japanese who bombarded Pearl Harbor were no doubt courageous and that the Germans who killed his second cousin in the Battle of Bulge were no doubt very courageous. “But I’m glad that they lost and we won because their cause was not a good one or just one, and ours was."

Fein said that he felt fortunate to have been born into the time and place of the United States, currently “the land of the free where we enjoy free rein to pursue our noblest aspiration, no matter where or how we started. I don’t think we would be here at this ceremony otherwise.’ 

“I thank you for standing with me in protecting and celebrating the historically unique treasure we have in the United States,” Fein said.