Honoring through etching


by Drew Trafton

BILLINGS – Senator Jon Tester dropped off the names of nearly ninety more Purple Heart Award recipients for inclusion in the official Purple Heart Memorial of Montana at Brookstone Memorial Company in Billings Friday.

The additional names will join nearly seven hundred which Purple Heart Society Commander Jerry LaFountan and others have received through email or phone call since Tester set the deadline for the names of veterans.

The names they received for the expansion on the memorial have served in conflicts ranging from World War I onward.

Senator Tester, member of the Senate's Veteran's Affairs Committee, set today's deadline for the memorial so work can be completed by Veteran's Day.

Currently, there are more than 8,000 veterans from Montana who have been rewarded with the Purple Heart.

3,000 names are currently listed on the memorial.

The owners of Brookstone gave Senator Tester a tour of the facility and let him etch part of a name into the marble slab- which has not been updated since 2005.

Tester was impressed with the amount of tedious work it takes to complete the etching the names, but stressed the importance of adding them to the memorial.

"What goes through my mind is that these folks left a piece of themselves on the battlefield, some of them got killed on the battlefield," said Tester. "We need to do all we can do to honor them, honor their sacrifice for this country and this is a small step, but I think it's a very important step."

Brookstone is working on the project without charge, something Tester says is impressive in a touch economic climate.

" Not everybody can do this," said Tester. "(It's) critically important. Otherwise we just wouldn't be able to afford to do it."

The Purple Heart Memorial can be found in the courtyard of the Yellowstone County Courthouse.