Field of Flags

Do you have a hero in your life?

By Misty Wittman, Personal Banking Officer

Most of us have someone in our lives that we look up to or consider a hero. Sometimes, it is difficult to honor and show them how truly blessed we are to have known them. As we celebrate Veterans Day, it’s important to recognize our military and first responders who have put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

I volunteer with the Laurel Exchange Club. We hold an annual event, Field of Flags in September at South School in Laurel, to honor these individuals. It is a place where they can share their stories and start the healing process of loss or injury. 1,000 six-foot flags flown in a uniform formation will take your breath away. The flags are displayed to honor those heroes in our lives.

The emotions I have about this event are indescribable. I have always supported our military and first responders and have the utmost respect for them. I want to share some of the stories that I have heard on my journey as a volunteer for Field of Flags.

Cecil Westerbur

Cecil Westerbur

Cecil Westerbur

Cecil Westerbur was 93 in 2018 during the first Laurel Exchange Club Healing Field. He was beside himself when he saw the flags flying in the wind and had to come see them. I sat and spoke to Cecil for some time just talking about life. Cecil is a World War II Vet and enlisted in the Military as soon as he could.  He said he always knew that he wanted to serve his country. He told me he had tried to enlist when he was 16 and they would not let him. When he was finally able to join, he said he had gone all around the world several times. He had been to every base both internationally and here in the United States.

Bo Reichenbach

Bo Reichenbach

Bo Reichenbach

Bo Reichenbach was a guest speaker at the first annual Healing Field in 2018 . He is a U.S. Navy Seal  that was deployed to Afghanistan in January of 2012. He was deployed about 7 months when he was out on patrol and stepped on a IUD. He is now a double amputee.  Bo spoke about his struggles and over coming them. He said his family was a huge motivation for him to continue living his life and moving forward.

LT. William Cooper

LT. William Cooper

LT. William Cooper

LT. William Cooper donated his time to come and speak to Laurel grade school kids about what it means to be a hero and educate them about 9/11. LT. Cooper was only 17 when the towers were hit. After the impact that this event had on our country, he knew he wanted to join the military. He has been serving our country ever since.

Chris Grudzinski

Chris Grudzinski

Chris Grudzinski

Chris Grudzinski was another one of our speakers who enlisted in the military and had been injured when he was deployed. He and his wife founded Montana Veterans Meat Locker, a non-profit organization, which provides professionally processed wild and domestic meat for Veterans and their family.

9/11 Crew Member Patch

9/11 Crew Member Presents his Patch

At the last Healing Field, a 9/11 crew member came to the field. He presented his patch from New York to the Laurel Exchange Club. The patch had been locked away since 2001. He expressed his gratitude for this event and felt compelled to share a little piece of history. The club framed the patch and will display it at the next Field of Flags.

These are just a few of the stories that make this event so important to me. Heroes come in many different packages, people who serve our country, the first responders and volunteers who are selfless with their time. All heroes in your life are just as important as the next and this event, along with Veterans Day, is a great way to honor all of them.

Dawnita and Lena

Four-Legged Friends – It’s a Real Thing!

During the Covid-19 shelter in place order, our four-legged friends become more important than many of us ever imagined. Dogs become our daily exercise companions. Cats curl up in our laps as we work from home. For many of us, the companionship of a pet takes on a whole new meaning as we socially distance from family, friends, and neighbors.

Recently, Dawnita Sampsel, an Ag Loan Officer at our Stanford bank welcomed a new addition to her family. A sweet Miniature Aussie named Lena arrived at the Great Falls Airport in January, where Dawnita and her husband Jeff, welcomed her with open arms. Having raised puppies before, they were ready and able to make sure that Lena had everything she needed to grow into a smart and capable ranch dog.

Dawnita and Lena


Animal shelters have seen a rise in adoptions during this period of shelter in place, but what does it really take to make sure your four-legged friend has what it needs to grow and develop? We decided to find out some puppy basics, so we caught up with Dr. Laurie Gaugler, DVM at Central Montana Veterinary Services in Hobson, and asked her to weigh in on basic care and what you should know about keeping your fur baby happy and healthy!

Laurie & Dawnita

Check out our video below of Dr. Gaugler, Dawnita and of course the star of the production – Lena!

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Old MC Bank Nefsy

Does where I bank really matter?

Jocelyn Lane

Jocelyn Lane, VP, Commercial/Consumer Loan Officer, Missoula

All banks are the same – right? They all offer similar products and services.  A business loan is a business loan. A checking account is a checking account. What could possibly be different? A lot!

Like with many industries, banks also have varying sizes and areas that they cover.

  • National/international banks which literally can be found in pretty much any part of the United States or the world for that matter.
  • Internet only banks accessed solely by the means of a computer or a phone.
  • Regional banks which cover a particular region that involves typically several states.
  • Community banks which focus on just a targeted area with a smaller footprint.

With the national and regional banks, they create efficiencies by consolidating pretty much all of their employees within a certain area. These jobs typically include the call center, admin/executive roles, marketing, compliance, operations and loan processing. So while you bank with them where you live and work, most of their behind-the-scenes folks are not in your community but instead are in a different state and may even be located in a different country (for example, a call center located in Costa Rica). The same is definitely true of the internet only banks but even on a larger scale because they don’t even have a local representation of any kind.

Why does this matter?  Well, it matters for a lot of reasons.

Level of Service

My best friend since 7th grade is a controller at a regional hospital in the Alabama area. Her company moved away from a national bank because their banker was never local and was difficult to reach. They selected a community banker because they saw this person regularly in the community and knew the responsiveness of this person/bank would be different. They had concluded as a company that’s what they valued and needed most. Her exact words to me were “I feel like I have another business colleague in my banker. You can’t put a value or price tag on that.”

Brenton and Bos Hay

Local Economy Support

Another area to think about is how much more a community bank drives your local economy where you live. While national, internet only and regional banks consolidate their employees into hubs likely in a location not in your community, community banks instead have all those jobs and salaries locally. Further, the bank’s own dollars generated from profit are also spent locally too. So a dollar earned in your community, stays in your community.

Giving Back

A final reason evolves around the benefit a community bank brings to the community.


Community banks and bankers are committed to giving back to the community where they work and live. They volunteer countless hours and personally donate funds (remember those salaries). In addition, the community bank itself gives additional charitable contributions (remember those dollars earned).

Old MC Bank Nefsy


For the most part in Montana, we are not a Metropolitan hub benefiting from consolidated and large companies placing their administration and operations departments here. Rather, we benefit most from the companies who originate here, stay here and keep all their employees here.

I recently moved to Montana. Deciding to work for Stockman Bank was an easy decision for me. The headquarters of the bank are in Montana and all the jobs and profits are retained here.  As such, a dollar earned here, stays here. In terms of giving back to the community, I’ve never been involved with a company so generous with their employees’ time to support non-profits as well as with the dollars given.

So to my earlier question, does it matter where you bank?  I have the answer for you. Absolutely! 

Are you interested in working with us? Contact your nearest Stockman Bank today.

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Bankers in Jeans - Conrad Group

Next Time You See A Banker in Jeans, Thank Them!

Stockman Bank has always been a firm believer in giving back to communities across Montana. In fact, this is the cornerstone we were founded on. Employees are encouraged and supported wholeheartedly to give back to their communities. One way our employees give back happens weekly on “Jeans Friday.” Employees contribute a certain amount, usually $2.00 to wear jeans to work on Friday. The money is collected and given to a charitable cause the bank agrees upon in advance. The small amount contributed from each employee adds up quickly with the communities becoming the winners.

Bankers in Jeans - Conrad Group

Here are reflections from two of our branches on why they participate.

Tonya Breding, Customer Service Representative for Conrad:

What difference will two dollars make? Two dollars will not go far… but if every member of our staff donated two dollars each week, we could raise well over $100.00 each month. In twelve months, we could raise over $1,200.00 and so on. In the last eight years, Conrad employees have donated over $12,939.00 to local causes.

Our story began in 2011, when several employees approached branch president Dan Majerus regarding Jean Fridays. Stockman Bank prides itself on a professional image and dress code, and we did not want to stray from that philosophy. Jeans were not an option except for special occasions like Bobcat/Griz Friday or our local Whoop-up Days, so we were looking for a way to expand special days. Dan was approached by staff members to make each Friday a “Special Friday”, and Jeans for Community was born.

Bankers in Jeans - Dan and Joe

The jeans money is not a donation from Stockman Bank, but rather from the employees. The money collected goes toward causes and events decided on in advance. Donations have been given to many local charities.

Bankers in Jeans - Brett and Josh

In 2016, our campaign expanded. The employees voted to also start a scholarship fund as part of their campaign. Our Jeans scholarship will be given yearly to a graduating member of Conrad High School, and the student must show community involvement skills to qualify for the scholarship. 

We are an example of how something small can become something very big. We are proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to helping even more areas of our community.

Rhonda Moore, VP for Billings Operations:

We joined the Billings Gazette Jeans Day for Charity several years ago – around 2000. When they discontinued it in 2016, we elected to continue the program. Since 2016 alone, our donations have been over $6,000 and we have given to several causes and organizations some of which include Relay for Life (American Cancer Society), Alzheimer’s Association, Christmas Adopt a Family, Suicide Prevention, and Family Service Inc. We participate in Relay for Life every year and donations to them alone through Jeans and other fundraisers have exceeded $47,000.

Bankers in Jeans - Billings Group

Our employees really look forward to the opportunity to contribute in such a fun and easy way. The cost is minimal, but the results add up quickly. It is a wonderful way to help organizations in the Billings community, and we salute those that participate in this very worthwhile program.

Clearly denim is not just for wearing, but for those in need as well. During this time of year, remember to give a shout out to those who pay to wear jeans. The next time you see a banker in jeans, remember to thank them!

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Cat Griz Mascot Mashup

Brawl of the Wild… aka Cat/Griz.

For many Montanans across the state, this week is a time when emotions run high! Whether your blood runs blue and gold or maroon and silver, everyone has a stake in the game when it comes to the Brawl of the Wild aka Cat/Griz.

The passion for Montana football also runs deep for many of our employees. We asked a few to share what Cat/Griz means to them and to give us their predictions for the outcome of this year’s game.

Bob Burns, Missoula Market President, Griz Fan

What it means: “A win by the Griz means family bragging rights for the next 364 days!”

Prediction: “The Griz will take back the trophy with a 28-17 win over the Bobcats.”

Paul Pahut, Bozeman Market President, Bobcat Fan

What it means: “The Brawl, to me and my family, is like a religious holiday and everyone knows we will be there.  The final emotional build up is an entire week long process. My 9 and 12 year olds have grown to love the build up and will hopefully go to the game this year, weather permitting.”

Prediction: “It will be a tough fought win for the Bobcats with a 27-24 final score.”

Brandon Dwyer, Missoula Commercial Loan Officer, Former Grizzly Football Player

What it means: “The brawl of the wild is the ultimate showcase for displaying the highest level of athletic achievement the state of Montana has to offer. For me, a native Montanan from Kalispell, being a Montana Grizzly football player meant an opportunity for me to “serve my state” by using my athletic talents to bolster that belief.  It was an incredible honor to be a Grizzly and being involved in one of the oldest rivalries in college football has been tremendous and I loved sharing my state with all of those out-of-state players on the roster.”

Prediction: “41-17 Grizzlies.”

Travis Wright, Miles City Senior Credit Officer, Former Bobcat Football Player

What it means:  “I grew up as a third generation Bobcat football player.  As a kid I would often hear stories from my grandfather and dad about past Cat-Griz games, former players, and the importance of the rivalry to my family and the State.  When I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in three rivalry games, I always had a special sense of pride in knowing that I was a part of an event that means so much to so many people.”

Prediction: “105-0 Cats”

Cat Griz Mascot Mashup

The History of Cat Griz

Saturday, November 23rd marks the 119th Brawl of the Wild, which will take place at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman. The rivalry between Montana and Montana State began November 26, 1897 in Bozeman and is one of the oldest football rivalries west of the Mississippi. Montana leads the series 72-40-5. While UM holds a sizable lead in the all-time series, Montana State has won more conference championships (20) and more national championships (3). UM has won 18 league titles and two national titles.

This year, the Griz are hoping to break the Cats three game winning streak and bring the Great Divide Trophy back to Missoula. Last year the Cats enjoyed the greatest comeback and most amazing finish in Cat-Griz history at Washington-Grizzly Stadium when Montana State rallied from a 22-0 deficit to a 29-25 win by forcing and recovering  a fumble after Montana advanced the ball to within one-foot of the goal line with 14 seconds to play. The win also earned the Bobcats a berth in the FCS playoffs.

While Cat and Griz fans may not agree on much, Paul Pahut says there is one belief Montana football fans all share. “The best Cat/Griz experience is from the stands, whether in Bozeman or Missoula. You can feel the passion and excitement of the fans on both sides!”

There’s no doubt that passion and excitement will be on full display for this year’s Brawl of the Wild. Enjoy the game!



If you are interested in hearing about one of the most memorable Cat/Griz games in the history of the rivalry, our good friend Rocky Erickson has shared this incredible story. Thanks Rocky!

Listen Now

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Back to School Kids

Back to School Requires Many Hands

Misti Anderson, Operations Officer in Sidney

Misti Anderson, Operations Officer in Sidney

Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer as well as back to school time for children across Montana. Our Sidney bank  has stepped up to support elementary students begin the school year with a good start.

We have just wrapped up the second successful year of donating over 600 new backpacks to Sidney elementary students, special needs pre-K through 5th grade, at both Westside and Central Elementary Schools. The backpacks were once again full of some basic school supplies as well as pencils/pens, pencil sharpener, crayons, glue stick, notebook, eraser, ruler, folder and three-ring pencil pouch.

Back to School

In conversation with Sara Romo, Central Elementary Principal, she tells us what this program means to Sidney Elementary school and students.

Sara Romo

What does this program mean to Sidney Elementary Schools?

This program shows what an amazing community we live in. We have organizations that put kids first and put the tools in our students’ hands that allow them to begin the school year with confidence.

How does this program benefit Sidney Elementary students?

Starting the school year can be stressful for families, and having the opportunity to provide backpacks and supplies for students that may go without, is rewarding and has a positive impact.

What has your most rewarding or favorite memory been with this program?

I have seen families come in and say that they will be late getting backpacks and supplies for the year because of funds. It is always rewarding to tell families that we have backpacks and supplies for them. Seeing a child pick out a backpack and making it their own is a reflection of how great our community is.

School SuppliesSchool Backpacks

The backpack program was started to ensure that local children have the essentials to learn and succeed at school. We hope this program can become an annual project here in the MonDak region going forward. Our goal for next year is to include other area elementary schools in Lambert, Fairview, Savage, Rau and Brorson.

A new school year is always an exciting time for students and families alike. A full backpack with new supplies will start the school year off on the right foot!

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Richland County Fair in 1920

History, Heritage and Culture Kept Alive by the MonDak Heritage Center

Luella Schow

Luella Schow
Real Estate Loan Assistant in Sidney

Eastern Montana History

As I was growing up outside of Sidney, Montana, something triggered my interest in my family history. Maybe it was the pictures on the wall at my grandparent’s house. Maybe it was the stories my relatives would tell of people they knew and grew up with or things that they accomplished as paying jobs. One of my grandparents helped build the Fort Peck dam and my dad helped plant trees nearby. Some of those relatives could even describe the dress they wore when a special event happened in their teenage years, including the material color and pattern.

Eventually, my curiosity about my family history grew to include Sidney and Montana history. Maybe it was the M-O-N-T-A-N-A song that I learned while in Elementary School. Maybe it was the trophy case at my high school, full of trophies depicting special events of the past. I wanted to know where my grandparents came from and why they came to Montana.

Richland County Fair in 1920

Richland County Fair in 1920

All these things made a lasting impression in my life, so I decided to write down some of the family and Montana history that I was told.

Horse Racing

Horse Racing

Lover of History to Member of the Board

Simply, I like learning about history – my family’s history, the history of the land and the area. I also believe it’s important to volunteer and be an active part of the community. So, when I was approached to fill a temporary Board position by a person on the Board of Directors for the MonDak Heritage Center in Sidney, my answer was immediately, “yes!” Just as I am recording the history of my family, the MonDak Heritage Center holds and preserves the history of the Sidney area.

Over the years, I had watched this museum grow and evolve and was impressed with the direction the Center was heading. This museum had changed from a place with an old-time main street exhibit with various shops from past years set up in the basement, along with static exhibits on the main level, to a cultural center with history and art exhibits that change several times a year, community meetings, exercise classes and various musical entertainment and free movie events.

Sidney Library

Sidney Library

Engage, Educate, and Inspire

Today, the MonDak Heritage Center is a non-profit organization guided by a mission to: “engage, educate and inspire our community by preserving and contributing to the area’s art, culture and heritage”. In addition to art exhibits and special events, the Center now offers art classes for children and adults, including pottery and other projects. My granddaughter and I have taken several art classes and enjoy them tremendously. It has been fun to see the variety of art classes that are taught and the various projects the artists complete. There are after- school art classes and out- of- town art classes too.

Volunteers Make Up the Fabric of Communities

It takes dedicated people who donate their time and energy to keep a worthwhile project strong and growing. The MonDak Heritage Center hosts several fundraisers a year, including my favorite, “Celebrating Chocolate.” Stockman Bank has been a sponsor of this event for the past 10 years and continues to be involved. Only with volunteers and community involvement from businesses, the MonDak Heritage Center look towards a strong future, as it continues to contribute to the art and culture of the Sidney area and preserve history for future generations.

Front of MonDak Heritage Center

Front of MonDak Heritage Center


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Dragon Hollow Playground Rebuild - Featured

SAVING THE DRAGON: Missoula’s Dragon Hollow Playground Rebuild

Dragon Hollow Playground Rebuild

Seventeen years ago, 4,000 volunteers came together and in nine days made a dragon come to life. The architects were school children, and I have been told they had some very imaginative ideas including installing a spit bucket that could be used to keep the slide lubricated. Although all ingenious ideas could not be incorporated, a playground took form and it became a treasured icon in Downtown Missoula.

An army of volunteers was again raised, but this time it was to “Save the Dragon,” because in the words of my three-year-old daughter, the children played so much they wore the playground out.

Super PowerHow it all started:

The project began when the original architects recommended an extensive refurbishment of the entire play area.

As we began to fundraise, it became clear that not only did we need to renovate the original structure, but we also needed to make sure that all children, including those with disabilities, could enjoy this play area. It was simply the right thing to do. With an amazing committee leading the charge we tackled this project and the Missoula community responded, much the way they did 17-years ago, with their full support.

Daughter Swinging Bob and Maeve

To refurbish the existing structure wood was replaced with low maintenance recycled structural plastic, many of the components were replaced including new slides, ladders, tunnels, and any remaining wood was painted and stained.

Dragon Hollow Kids

Along with these renovations to the current structure all inclusive features are being added including:

  • A rubberized pathway throughout the park to allow access by wheelchairs to existing play features
  • New inclusive elements such as a cozy cocoon where children with autism (and others) can retreat from the crowd
  • A large, cable jungle gym that spins
  • A merry-go-round that can accommodate two wheelchairs and a net swing to provide extra support
  • A slide where two can ride side-by-side, accessed by a climbing slope rather than steps
  • A swing designed so two can ride face-to-face
  • Activity panels and musical instruments.

On Thursday, late in the afternoon, a crew of volunteers from our Missoula bank joined in the efforts digging post holes, deconstructing portions of the old structure, building new steps and a lucky few were assigned the task of recreating art from the build 17 years ago. All-in-all nearly 1,500 volunteers are helping with the efforts, many in the pouring rain, and the dragon will be saved for children of future generations to enjoy.

Stockman Volunteer Stockman Volunteer Stockman Volunteer

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Sarah K. Banking at Stockman Bank

She’s Only Five and Already Has the Wisdom of a Super Saver!

Teach Kids to Save is celebrated today, April 12. One of our newest Stockman customers, Sarah K., agreed to an interview on why she recently opened a savings account at only five years old.

Sarah K. Banking at Stockman Bank

So, Sarah, we understand you opened a savings account. How old are you?
Yes I did. I’m five years old and I’m in Kindergarten.

Why did you open a savings account at your age?
Because it (a savings account) makes me happy and helps me to save money.

Why do you think it’s important to save money?
So I can buy things.

What would you tell other kids your age they should do with money?
They should (open a savings account) because they might just be amazed.

Should they have a savings account?

Do you have any savings goals?
Yes, I am trying to save for a robot unicorn. It has wheels and can roll around. It costs lots of money.

Do you have an allowance?
Yes. If I do some of my jobs, I get some of the money. If I do all of my jobs, I get all of the money.

How much do you get for your allowance?
Lots of money, like $30. I have to wash dishes, make my bed and clean my room.
(Side note: Sarah’s mom emailed me this after our call. “I heard that Sarah said her allowance is $30 a week, she wishes! It’s closer to $3 a week.” To a 5 year old, $3.00 seems like $30.00. We know this will change when Sarah is a teenager.)

What do you think of when you hear the words

  • Cash? Money
  • Saving? A lot of something!
  • Rich or wealthy? I don’t know what that means.

When you get older, how do you think having a savings account might help you?
We would have asked Sarah that question, but her friend arrived and they needed to play, which is why a savings account is a great thing for anyone to have. Put your money to work for you so you can play when your friends show up.

We want to thank Sarah, her mom, and dad for allowing us to interview her. We hope this blog inspires you to start a savings account or encourage a child to start saving today, and remember that the minimum balance of $100 is waived for those under 18.

For more information about Teach Kids to Save go to and click on the links.

Little Boy Saving Money in Piggy Bank

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