By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
ROCKY BOY AGENCY - Dark clouds covered the sky and raindrops soaked the ground at Rocky Boy Agency early Saturday morning. But the rain couldn't dampen the spirits of a large group of people gathered together to recognize the veterans of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation by dedicating the newly constructed Rocky Boy's Veterans Memorial Park in their honor.
"Today is a special day," said Raymond "Jake" Parker, a U.S. Marine veteran and a member of the Chippewa Cree tribal council. "This memorial was a long time coming. We have so many vets here and others still serving. This park is a way for us to honor our veterans' dedication and service to our country."
Parker, who's also a member of the Rocky Boy Warriors Society veterans organization, said the tribe had discussed building some sort of a veterans memorial for more than 10 years but didn't get active with any real planning efforts until this year. Within the past few months, Parker said, design plans for a park came together and several community members donated time and labor to transform a parcel of swampy land across from the Rocky Boy Veterans Center into a veterans memorial park.
"This was really a community effort," said Judi Houle, director of the Rocky Boy Veterans Center and the Rocky Boy Senior Center. "This park is really a symbol of our dedication to our veterans. We want them to know that we're here for them and we're not going away."
The park features a dammed pond, a wooden archway bearing the name Rocky Boy Veterans Memorial Park, a metal warrior statue, and a large metal etching of the Chippewa Cree Tribe's seal in the middle of a broad circular deck that spans more than 25 feet. The tribal council allocated $18,000 toward the memorial park, and several other tribal organizations pitched in money or labor to help make the park a reality.
"This is a place for families to gather to remember loved ones past or say thank you to those veterans who are still serving," Parker said. "We want the community to take pride in this park and treat it with respect as a place of memories."
A large crowd of Rocky Boy residents, veterans and several distinguished guests gathered Saturday for the memorial park dedication. The morning rain stopped right as the park's dedication began and the sun peaked through the clouds and shined throughout the ceremony.
"We hope this park will revive the memories of our veterans," said John "Roddy" Sun Child, a veteran himself, during the park's dedication ceremony. "We're recognizing our brothers in arms. Veterans are true warriors. Once you earn that title, it is forever yours."
Maj. Gen. John Prendergast of the Montana National Guard flew in by helicopter for the