A day to remember

Great Falls Tribune

by Kristen Cates

Though he has trouble walking and Monday’s wind and cold were chilling to anyone’s bones, 89-year-old Jim Brumm was exactly where he needed to be as he sat and listened to the Memorial Day ceremony at the Montana Veteran’s Memorial in Great Falls.

“It’s a great honor to have been able to serve and do what I’ve been able to,” said the World War II Navy veteran. “It’s just part of what I’ve done for the last 60 years.”

Brumm and his wife recently moved to Great Falls after spending years in the Shelby and Conrad areas. His career was spent as an auto mechanic, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was volunteering with the local VFW and honor guard participating in ceremonies such as Monday’s to honor the fallen.

He served in the Pacific Theater during the latter part of WW II, bringing ammunition from the depots to the front lines. He lost many comrades during those battles from 1944 on into 1946.

“It brings back a lot of sad memories,” he said. “But you just take it one day at a time.”

Monday’s ceremony featured the tolling of the bell 44 times for men and women from Montana who have died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a tribute to Marvin “Doc” Brewster.

Brewster, a Vietnam veteran, died earlier this month from cancer and was honored at Monday’s ceremony as having been actively involved in the creation of the Montana Veteran’s Memorial — including sculpting the large statue that overlooks the memorial.

Speakers at Monday’s ceremony spoke of the “angels of mercy” in the military who have worked as medics, doctors and counselors serving those who have not only been injured or died during conflict, but have suffered emotionally and physically from war.

Dr. Christine King, counselor and team leader at the Great Falls Vet Center, said since the local office opened in 2010, her team has served more than 278 veterans — some suffering from physical ailments, others dealing with the PTSD that has come from war.

“It’s been really miraculous to do this work,” she said. “We try to provide a safe place where (veterans) can come.”

In his remarks, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., encouraged everyone in attendance to continue to teach their children and grandchildren about the meaning behind Memorial Day. But he also took it one step forward.

“Make every day Memorial Day,” he said.

Chuck and Mary Crowell were heeding Tester’s advice, and brought their grandsons Colby, 6, and Caden, 8, to Monday’s ceremony.

Chuck served in the Navy during Vietnam and his family recently had his name etched onto one of the 5,000 tiles lining the walls the Montana Veterans Memorial.

“He’s getting honored,” Caden said of his grandfather.