GREAT FALLS - The Montana Veterans Memorial in Great Falls started renovations in June of 2022 in an effort to keep the site updated.
Three months later, they have made significant progress in creating a community safe place for remembrance.
So far, the Veteran's Memorial has three flag poles, three light poles, new concrete, four additional tree plaques, seven panels acid-washed, and 19 benches repositioned with a new one from the Marine Corps.
Airmen from 819th RED HORSE unit at Malmstrom Air Force Base helped out in setting up three flag poles that will be placed towards the center of the memorial.
They are also part of the Veterans Motorcycle Club.
The Construction Lead for the project, Herb Gilmour, said there haven't been too many hiccups as far as renovations go.
"Actually, it's gone pretty smoothly," he said. "We've had a few small minor glitches, but you have it any time you got construction. Other than that, with what we had to work with — and time and challenges to the contractors — it has gone fantastic I believe."
"Since we held our Memorial Day ceremony have included additional granite stone benches in the primary location for tree plaques along the islands, and we have also started acid washing the granite tiles to improve the uniformity and look of the tiles," said Montana Veterans Memorial Association President Star Darko.
When renovations started, one of the first additions was refurbishing two external flame pillars that haven't been lit in years.
Michael Winters — one of the people who spearheaded the creation of the memorial — says that the pillars represent the eternal flame and honor of veterans and those currently serving.
“The lights are so important, so very important. It's honoring everyone who signed the bottom line on a check to defend our nation.”
New solar-powered lights were drilled into the bowl on top of the pillar and will emit a soft glow, forever shining brightly once again.
The other restoration is the concrete replacement within the memorial itself.
"Some parts were falling," Gilmour said. "It was getting heaves in, it was cracking, we were afraid of people falling from place. It had sunk two or three inches. It was just bad all the way around. And we figured if we're going to do it, do it right. It'll be good for hopefully the next 40 or 50 years. We put rebar in, had everything brought up to snuff. Thomas Dean has done all the engineering. They checked all the compaction and stuff. And I think we're way ahead of the game where we were before."
About 5,800 square feet of concrete was replaced in poured and four sections with the goal of creating a community safe place for remembrance.
The next steps are to place bricks around the base of the three flagpoles and light poles.
Plans for a ribbon-cutting ceremony are yet to be determined, but they hope to host it sometime this autumn season.
Since it opened in 2006, the Montana Veterans Memorial has placed more than 7,400 tiles honoring Montana veterans, both living and deceased.
About 200 new tiles are added every year before Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
The Montana Veterans Memorial is at 1025 25th Street North in Great Falls.
For more information, or if you would like to honor a veteran, click here to visit the website, or call 406-454-9070.