Tester at Memorial Day ceremony: ‘Butte never stops fighting’

by Montana Standard, David McCumber

“Butte never stops fighting,” Jon Tester said Monday at a Memorial Day observance at the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse. What the ceremony also made clear is that Butte never stops remembering those who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Dave Palmer, Fire Chief Jeff Miller, and Sheriff Ed Lester all preceded Tester at the podium during the Memorial Day observance, speaking to a crowd assembled under the rotunda.

Palmer talked about the recent move of the “jungle fighter” statue from in front of the courthouse into the lobby. He recalled the copper plaques naming Butte-Silver Bow veterans who served in World Wars I and II that formerly flanked the statue at its original location near Butte High and said that now, plans are afoot to set up a display with the statue honoring Butte veterans from those and later conflicts.

Miller and Lester both praised the attendees for understanding the real purpose of a popular holiday that is often used to mark the beginning of the summer.

Tester, Montana’s senior senator and a Democrat, was loudly applauded as Mike Lawson, commander of the Southwest Montana Veterans Council, introduced him as the “best advocate for veterans we’ve ever had.”

Tester started by mentioning the “more than 100 Butte men who died on faraway battlefields fighting in World War I. Also during that war, more than 250 men were killed on the job, deep below ground, mining the copper that powered the U.S. and our allies to victory.”

After recounting the more than 200 men from Silver Bow County who died in World War II and those who died in Korea and Vietnam, he said, “In the years since, Butte men and women have continued to sign up to serve during times of peace and conflict.

“Of course, it was a Butte boy who took out Osama Bin Laden. And a Butte man is commander of the Montana National Guard.”

Tester said that “one of the biggest challenges we face as a country is properly caring for our aging heroes.”

“In 1993,” Tester said, “Bob Pavlovich knew something had to be done.

“Serving in the Legislature, Bob passed legislation authorizing the Southwest Montana Veterans Home here in Butte. And over the past 25 years, Bob has stayed on the front lines, fighting to secure the funding needed,” Tester said. “Along the way, he picked up some strong allies, including Jon Sesso, Don Harrington, Mike Lawson, Jim Keane, Ryan Lynch, and Ron Davis, and many more.

“In Washington,” Tester continued, “It was a much tougher fight.” He said the VA “thought they could wait us out. After more than two decades of delay, they thought that folks in Butte would give up the fight.

“What Washington didn’t realize is that Butte never stops fighting.”

Tester said, “Finally, 25 years after Bob Pavlovich started this fight for our veterans, we were able to secure the $8 million needed from the federal government.”

Tester also referenced the VA Mission Act, a bill he said he and the Republican chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, had been working on for more than a year. Passed earlier this month by both House and Senate, the bill will end the VA Choice program and replace it with a program that Tester said will reduce wait times and use the private sector to fill gaps where the VA falls short.

“I will keep fighting alongside Montana veterans to make sure we deliver on our nation’s promise to all who have served,” said Tester, who is running for reelection this year.

“And as long as I have the folks from Butte fighting with me,” he added, “I know we can’t lose.”