Havre Daily News
Police blocked off two blocks of First Street on Friday to accommodate children and adults united in a tearful yet joyful celebration for loved ones honored on Havre's new veterans memorial.
More than 100 people gathered around Town Square on Veterans Day for the monument's dedication. It honors both those who have served in the past and people who are now military members.
The turnout was better than Mayor Bob Rice, re-elected last Tuesday to a second term, had expected.
“I want to thank you all for coming out. This is absolutely wonderful,” said Rice, who served for 30 years in the U.S. Navy. “I am proud to serve, not only in the past, but in the future.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars state commander Jim McGill of Bigfork reminded people of the mission of a soldier.
“We fought with our hearts and our minds. It gives me profound gratitude for what our men and women are doing for us,” McGill said told the crowd. “I look out here and what really makes me feel good is our young because they are our future. We've got to preserve that future.”
VFW Post 497 past commander Jim Matter was in charge of the memorial wall project and spoke at the dedication.
“Today is a special day as we need to honor these extraodinary, select group of people.” Matter said.
“We understand that Veterans Day is a day of deep significance.”
After the dedication, people hovered over the names etched in metal plaques that are displayed on the memorial.
Rice also recited the names of veterans that will put on benches in front of the memorial: Norman Gorder, Cal Burr, Harold Anderson, Jim Catt, Otto Stuber and Gary Crossler.
Rice said anyone who wants to purchase a $25 plaque to honor a veteran or military member can do so at the Vets Club on Second Street. The plaques include the veteran's name, branch and dates of service.
“I think this was a good addition for Havre and I really enjoyed the turnout,” he said.
One of the names on the memorial is that of Sgt. Clyde Murray, a 30-year military veteran and now a member of the Montana National Guard. Murray recently returned from Iraq as a member of Company B of the 1-163rd Infantry Battalion and spent his first day back home at the memorial dedication.
He said he was surprised about the people's support for soldiers versus 30 years ago.
“I was really amazed at the whole patriotic military attitude. I was in the Navy during the Vietnam conflict and the attitude was totally different,” he said. “People walk up to you and give you a pat on the back and say, ‘Thanks.'”
Murray served in Iraq for a year and said he may have to return.
Matter welcomed soldiers who had returned from the war.
“They really need a lot of support when they come home ... and they really need to know that we're with them all of the way,” he said. “If there's any opposition, we need to stand up for them.”
After a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps,” Marlene Hannah of the American Legion Auxiliary and VFW commander Bill Bilger placed a wreath in front of the memorial. The Havre Middle School provided music.
“Out of our blood and sweat, we learn the purpose of sacrifice, honor, bravery and discipline,” McGill said. “These are solid foundations on which a great nation is built, and it's a continued quest for honorable world peace that we must cultivate these virtues.”
After the dedication, a Veterans Day service and lunch were provided at the Vets Club. Ernie Hofmann of Havre was honored with a certificate from American Legion Post 11 for 23 years of service.
“I do want to thank the American Legion Post. It is a deep privilege to serve,” Hofmann said. “I was surprised. I know that there are others who were just as qualified.”
Throughout the day, residents stopped by the veterans memorial. Some stood while others sat on the benches in front of it.
In his Navy blues, Rice greeted people with a warm smile and Havre pins.
“God bless Havre, and God bless America,” he said.