A celebration of a new memorial was also a time to salute the fallen. Some 800 people gathered at the Fort Peck Theatre on Monday, May 26, to listen to the speakers, give honor to the fallen and celebrate the soon-to-be Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial Park.
The event brought speakers Navy SEAL Rober O'Neill, former Gov. Marc Racicot, Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn and attorney Clifford Edwards, who read a letter from Tom Brokaw. Those speakers spoke to the audience about the importance of remembering the sacrifices, remembering those who served and passing it on to future generations.
"This day is a special day," Quinn said. "It's a day to pause and reflect the fallen."
Edwards explained that Brokaw wasn't able to attend due to health issues, but the letter he read was one of homage to sacrifice. He explained that such memorials were an honor owed to neighbors, friends and family who went to war, saved the world and came home. The letter was themed with citizenship and sacrifice.
In attendance among the crowd were those visiting the Fort Peck area as part of the Wounded Warrior Project. They spent time fishing and enjoying the outdoors before the ceremony. Outreach Coordinator Anthony Cala explained that they caught 100 fish over the weekend. He gave a thank you to the volunteers who helped make the experience a good one.
In O'Neill's remarks, he told stories of his training, entering the Navy to be a sniper and watching his comrades go out on a mission and not make it back home. He explained that soldiers don't lack fear, they carry bravery. He explained that the freedoms we all have are part of those sacrifices that those in the service provided, and they went forward for their family.
"It's not just a weekend to barbecue," O'Neill said. "Freedom is rented, and rent is due every single day."
The ceremony moved from the Fort Peck Theatre and closed at the flagpole, where the veterans memorial will be. The project has raised more than $300,000 since November and continues to grow.
Others who took part in the ceremony were Veterans of Foreign Wars state Cmdr. Art Widhalm, the Marine Corps Honor Guard, Glasgow High School Band, EQ singers, Pastor Lonnie Eidson, WWII Veteran Joe Carson, Fort Peck Mayor John Jones, trumpet players Brad Persinger and Leonard Swenson, and the VFW Post 3107 Firing Squad.