Memorial Day 2021 began at 7:00 a.m. at the Western Montana Veterans Cemetery with a sunrise service planned and hosted by the United Veterans Council.

Following the presentation of the colors with members of the Civil Air Patrol, physician, Montana legislator and gubernatorial candidate Dr. Al Olszewski addressed the small crowd at the cemetery.

“Today we pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country,” said Olszewski. “And that alone makes us an exceptional country. It's not Lolo Peak. It's not the springtime and the birds here in this hallowed place. It's the people and the souls of those who have sacrificed everything that make us an exceptional people, and an exceptional country.”

Dr. Olszewski brought to mind the fact that Montana has led the nation for many years not only in the number of veterans per capita, but sadly for the number of veterans who have taken their own lives.

“We talk about those that have lost their lives that came home from Afghanistan, Iraq, and from every conflict, and unfortunately, they've taken their lives on their own because of their suffering,” he said. “Let's not let that get too far advanced, or it's too late where they feel that they're so lonely, and that starts right now.”

Dr. Olszewski said the relationships that are formed before the young man or woman actually joins the service are vital in helping them when they return home.

“We need to start developing those relationships now, especially when a young man or young woman says, you know, I'm thinking of serving our country right now.” He said. “We need to set up that relationship and encourage them. We need to help them as they serve, especially as they're being told that true patriotism maybe is tarnished. We need to tell them no, it's been purified by fire. It is pure as gold and we can see that the

results in front of us with these white tombstones and the souls that lay before them.”

Dr. Olszewski related a personal story of his relationship with Chuck Yeager, the man who broke the sound barrier, whose story was profiled in the movie ‘The Right Stuff’ and who recently passed away. Olszewski said Yeager spoke of the many pilots who flew off on missions in World War II and never returned.

“He told me one day, he was quiet, and he said, you know, I lost a lot of friends in the beginning of World War II,” he said.” I wasn't even allowed to fly at that time, but we lost so many good young men that would fly out and never come back. How do I make it day by day? It’s by remembering them and honoring their spirit and serving our country. And that's what it is. It's service above self. Don't forget it, Doc. Its service above self.”

The sunrise service was one of 12 being presented by the United Veterans Council, widely believed to be the most of any single community in the United States.

The ceremony ended with the playing of ‘Taps’.

 

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