By Ron VandenBoom
A 21-gun salute honoring all veterans highlighted a Saturday ceremony dedicating seven new flag poles across the street from the Havre VFW Club.
Post Commander Robert (Bob) Rice, who led the ceremony, told spectators that the flag poles were meant to serve as a fitting tribute and as a lasting memory of all veterans who served their country in the Armed Forces of the United States.
Rice told the crowd that seven poles were selected to remind people of Dec. 7, 1941 the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese the event that thrust America into World War II. Rice also said that any time a local veteran dies, the flags will be lowered to half mast to announce that another veteran has gone to "the big sky."
Rowlie Hutton, pastor of the Fifth Avenue Christian Church, read a passage from the Bible on the significance of memorials, telling the crowd that God ordered 12 stones be placed near the Jordan River where the Israelites crossed when they entered the promised land.
It was done, Hutton said, so when the sons asked, fathers could tell them of the history of the Jewish people.
So, too, Hutton said, the flag poles will give fathers in Havre the chance to explain to their sons that someone had to shed his blood because freedom isn't free.
Havre VFW Post 497 coupled the flag dedication with the display of the the traveling Purple Heart Memorial.
The memorial consists of three blocks of engraved granite that contain the names of Montanans who received the Purple Heart. The award is made to members of the military who have been killed or wounded in combat.
The memorial, according to Kathy LaFountain, the wife of Gerry LaFountain, a Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam veteran who originated the idea of a Purple Heart Memorial, will be the only memorial of its kind in the United States.
Other memorials contain the names of those receiving the award from a particular war, but this is the only memorial that includes the names of all recipients from all wars, she said.
LaFountain said the traveling memorial will visit every county seat in Montana and all seven Indian Reservations before concluding its trip in Billings on June 23.
Donations are being accepted for the memorial that will eventually be erected in a semicircle on the lawn of the Yellowstone County Courthouse on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11.
Additional slabs of granite will be added as more names are added to the list of recipients, LaFountain said, and the memorial also will include a locator and, eventually, an archive.
So far, donations have been ok, LaFountain said. "But they still have a long way to go."
LaFountain said they had been receiving a lot more names of veterans receiving the Purple Heart than they originally anticipated.
So far, about 5,000 names have been collected out of an anticipated 6,500.
"It's bigger than they thought it would be," LaFountain said.
LaFountain began the 10-week, 3,700 mile trek across the state April 9. They are only allowing themselves to spend one day in each community before moving on.
From Havre, the memorial traveled to Fort Belknap and is scheduled to be in Chinook today. On Tuesday, May 8, the memorial is scheduled to be at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, before heading out to Chester, on May 9, Shelby, on May 10, Conrad, on May 11, and Choteau on May 12.
Any Purple Heart recipient is eligible to have his name placed on the memorial. Anyone wanting his name added to the memorial, or anyone who would like to have a loved-one's name included, can pick up an application at the Havre VFW Club or contact Gerald P. LaFountain, Commander, Chapter 343 M.O.P.H., 4615 Simpson St., Billings, Mt., 59101.
Some proof of the honoree's eligibility should accompany the application. Proof, LaFountain said, could include a copy of the veterans DD form 214 discharge or even a photograph of the recipient with the award. An obituary citing the award also will be proof enough, LaFountain said.