GREAT FALLS — Members of the Montana Veterans Memorial Association spent Saturday morning preparing the site for Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
Since its inception, the Montana Veterans Memorial has placed more than 7,000 tiles honoring Montana veterans both living and deceased. The group adds about 200 new tiles every year, on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
According to the president of the Montana Veterans Memorial Association, Michael Winters, they are setting up 154 tiles, and that the ceremony continues to grow in popularity.
"I think the most important part about it," Winters said, "is Montana and Great Falls has a great military history. It's a very historic spot where we're at in Great Falls. Our history with Malmstrom and the Air National Guard, it's an important thing to recognize all military veterans."
He added, "We have visitors during the tourist season here, daily, and this is a very important part."
Blackfeet Nation has a designated spot dedicated to its warriors dating back to the first World War. Blackfeet veteran Albert Salway said he wanted to help memorialize his fellow tribal members.
Salway said, “I started helping them, and so I felt good about it that I was getting something done for people that have already passed on, and find out why some of these people that have served in war, we had about 38 veterans, that had lost lives in these wars."
For one member of the veterans association, the scenery is his favorite part of the ceremony; Jamie Darko said: "I like it up here, because there's a park down here, all the veterans, all of the people who show up, seeing the American flag rise up, the sunrise, and we always like this place.”
Monday’s ceremony will offer limited seating but it will be streamed live on the Montana Veterans Memorial Association Facebook page. It can also be heard on KGPR radio in Great Falls at 89.9 FM.
An introductory welcome will be provided by MVMA President Starnell Darko. Darko is a retired United States Army Command Sgt. Maj. and last served in that position for the 652nd Regional Support Command (Rear Detachment) located at Fort Harrison, Montana.
United States Navy veteran and former KRTV personality Art Taft will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event.
Members of the United States Air Force Honor Guard from Malmstrom Air Force Base will present the colors for the ceremony, and Chaplain (Capt.) Christopher Pitts will provide the invocation and benediction for the ceremony.
The Vocal Patriots Chorus will sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" during the ceremony. Members of the Boy Scouts of America will also lead attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.
In the event of rain, the ceremony will be moved indoors to Centene Stadium.
The Memorial is located at 1025 25th Street North in Great Falls. For more information, or if you would like to honor a veteran, click here to visit the website.
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