A small but enthusiastic group met at the Western Montana Veterans Memorial Cemetery on Monday morning for the first of many ceremonies to honor those who gave their lives for the country in the U.S. military.

One of the attendees was Gerald Bell, Staff Sergeant U.S. Army (retired), who shared part of his story about serving in the Pacific during World War II.

“I first joined the Army Air Corps, but they needed more bodies on the ground so they transferred a bunch of us into the infantry,” said Bell, who hails from East Glacier but now resides in Missoula. “I was in Okinawa from the 17th of April until the war ended on the 14th of August. Then, my outfit went to Korea. We were the first troops into Korea with the 7th Infantry Division and we were there to disarm the Japanese.”

Bell said he was in the mortar section and during the various engagements with the Japanese he lost 34 members of his outfit. Bell was invited to place an honorary wreath on the emblem of the U.S. Army at the memorial.

The speaker for the ceremony for the second straight year was Kalispell Doctor Al Olszewski, Montana legislator and Republican candidate for Governor.

The entire script for his speech is printed below:

Today we honor our military brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and our liberty. For this reason, Memorial Day is a most solemn and sacred day.

This morning, I honor our fallen brothers and sisters with a special sense of sadness. What they gave to us, we have no power to repay them. They gave “all” in their last full measure of devotion to God, Country, and Family so that we may be free for another generation.

Although we can never repay our fallen heroes, we can strive to "pay it forward" to those who will follow.

Therefore, to the next generation of Americans, I bring you this simple but powerful message.

In America we have never lived a day in our lives that we weren't free.

The price of freedom is always high and We the People have never, never walked away from that cost!

The cost to all Americans is clear, but is never easy – Serve our country to the best of your ability! If you are able, we call upon you to put on the uniform of our military and join us in protecting our families and defending this land we call home.

If you are unable to serve in our military family, serve our country in other ways. Serve with clarity, serve with courage, and serve Our People with honor and commitment.

To all Americans, I make this request – fly our flag and show it honor and respect. This flag is the last uniform we veterans wear as our coffin is placed into the ground. This flag is the last uniform that is draped across the coffin of our fallen Patriots as they return home.

Finally, to our enemies, I proclaim this warning. We Americans, jealously protect our freedom and our liberty!

We will negotiate for it. We will sacrifice for it. We will die for it. But we will never forfeit or surrender our freedom and liberty. Not now, not ever.

May God Bless our departed heroes and those present today. May God Bless Montana, and may God Bless the United States of America.

 

The ceremony ended with the playing of ‘Taps’. There are several more ceremonies throughout the day in Missoula.