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Students plant flags for every Montana military member killed in battle

Posted at 10:41 PM, May 26, 2024

DILLON — Memorial Day is a time to remember those who lost their lives in combat and the students at Dillon Middle School decided to honor every Montanan who made the ultimate sacrifice by planting one flag for them in the ground. For those who see this field of flags, it’s certainly an emotional tribute.

“Each flag speaks for itself. Each one of them fellows died for this country and that’s all that can be said,” said veteran and Dillon resident George Davidson.

History teacher Mark Moreni got some of his students to help him plant 2,921 flags in front of the school – one flag for every Montanan who died in combat since the first World War. The project was very personal to some of the eighth-grade students who worked on it.

“This means a lot. My grandparents and both of my uncles have been in the military and I knew what they were doing as I was growing up, so it means a lot to me,” said 8th grade student Madison Sampson.

Students spent two days planting the flags in neat rows and some thought about the deeper meaning of what they were doing.

“Thinking, like, to myself, like, how everybody has given up their lives for me and all my friends and for everybody,” said student Brynna Gibson.

The State VFW office in Helena provided Moreni with the number of combat deaths of Montana troops over more than a century of wars. A number that’s surprisingly high for a state with such a low population.

“It’s interesting because Montana per capita has more people serve than any other state,” said Moreni.

He took on this project to give his students and the community a visually powerful representation of Montana’s sacrifice.

“So often we take things for granted in this country and the reason we're able to have the things we have and even act the way that we act is because somebody has paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Moreni.

Sampson added, “I love it when the wind takes them all in one direction and you can kind of see where everything is and see how many people died for us.”