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One served the country in Vietnam while another in the Persian Gulf, but both shared one thing in common: they were not recognized for their service. That changed, however, on Friday.

At Senator Jon Tester’s Billings office Friday afternoon, Mark Hamill and Paul Walborn were awarded a number of medals at a ceremony officiated by Senator Tester himself.

All three members of Montana’s congressional delegation praised Thursday’s passage by the Senate of an amendment to encourage the hiring of unemployed military veterans.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., one of the measure’s lead sponsors, called it “the most significant piece of veterans’ jobs legislation since I’ve been in the Senate.”

“Simply put, we have a responsibility to provide for all veterans and their families,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It is something I have never taken lightly and it is something that continues to motivate me every single day.”

At 20.1 percent, Montana has the fourth-highest unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the nation, behind Michigan, Indiana and Minnesota.

The state, home to the second-largest population of veterans per capita in the country, is a microcosm of the national picture of unemployment among veterans. For September, the unemployment rate for veterans of all generations was 8.1 percent, up from 7.7 percent in August, according to the Labor Department’s October unemployment report.

A 90-year-old, disabled World War II veteran heralded the passage of a 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment for veterans and their families as “great news.”

“It will help put bread on the table,” said Art Klein of Billings, a former prisoner of war.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the increase, which takes effect in 2012. The bill was called up after the announcement of the Social Security adjustment, which is decided by an automatic formula that Congress does not control. Only when Social Security recipients get a raise can Congress act to give the same increase to veterans.