EAST HELENA — Several hundred people gathered Monday in East Helena for Cory-Dullum VFW Post 10010’s annual Memorial Day ceremonies.
It was a step closer to normal after COVID-19 disrupted the traditional events last year. In 2020, the VFW was forced to cancel the Memorial Day Parade for the first time in its 70-year history.
This year, post commander Jeff Schepp said it was rewarding to be able to recognize the fallen in the way it has always been done.
“We had a great turnout – lots of younger individuals, which is very important so that they remember what today is about,” he said.
Last year’s Veterans’ Day parade in East Helena was much smaller than usual because of COVID, but this event looked much more traditional. Monday’s parade included dozens of marchers.
The Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution even brought a float, showing what a Revolutionary War-era camp might have looked like.
Don Reed, president of the Montana Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, said they typically have a float in numerous parades around Montana each summer, but those opportunities were much rarer last year.
“It’s wonderful, wonderful to finally get back to normal,” he said. “It’s a good day to be an American.”
Angela Young was watching the parade with two of her children, while her four older sons and her husband marched along with their Boy Scout troop.
“We weren’t able to be part of it last year because of the whole COVID situation, and this is our first time participating this year,” she said. “So we’re kind of excited to be out here to participate this year.”
When the parade reached Main Street Park, state and local leaders spoke about the meaning of Memorial Day during a ceremony at the Servicemembers’ Monument.
“The men and women of our armed services have served proudly, distinctively and they have asked for little, yet they inspired and gave so much,” said Maj. Gen. Pete Hronek, adjutant general of the Montana National Guard. “Through their selfless service, they portray the values and ideals on which this country was founded.”
VFW leaders placed flowers on the monument to honor those who gave their lives in service.
“Today is to remember the people that have fought for what we do, what we can say, how we can say it, how we live our lives,” Schepp said. “They’re the ones that laid the groundwork for where we’re going right now.”
The East Helena events wrapped up a weekend of ceremonies honoring fallen service members. The Lewis and Clark County Memorial Foundation held its commemoration at the Veterans’ Memorial in Helena on Sunday afternoon. The Montana State Veterans’ Cemetery at Fort Harrison also hosted an event last Thursday.