MISSOULA — To commemorate the life of one of Montana’s most iconic veterans, people gathered along a stretch of Highway 93 on Thursday morning for the unveiling of a sign honoring Louis Charlo.
Louis Charlo was one of the soldiers in World War II who raised the American flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“We were approached during the last legislative session about this and gave the go ahead,” Martin Charlo, Louis’ nephew said. “I consulted with our family and we were very honored that they chose to do this. It’s a high honor for the state, and to have the governor's office, and everyone else is really an honor to show their support for this.”
Charlo's commemoration is a part of an active effort by Montana legislators to include more memorials from veteran’s with Native American heritage.
“You know, it just dawned on me and several other legislators that we don’t have any Indians in Montana, or Natives, that are being recognized that have done great things for our state, or our country,” Representative Shane Morigeau said. “…So, several of us took it upon ourselves to get bills in to make sure that people in our communities who we recognize as heroes are being honored and recognized, and Louis Charlo was one of those individuals.
Many Montanans might know of Charlos’ history, but Martin hopes that visitors from outside of Big Sky country see the memorial off Hwy. 93 and are inspired to learn more about his iconic uncle.
“I really hope that this kind of brings -- it kind of sheds new light on his service with the people in our state, and hundreds and thousands of tourists each year,” Martin said. “Actually, millions, right? If a handful of them learn the history of this area and the history of Mr. Charlo, and hopefully the history of the area and understand the significance of our tribe here, and everything we have done to make this place better.”
Martin also mentioned that this stretch of highway is important to the Charlo family: it’s where Charlo spent most of his time growing up, and Martin said his uncle would have felt honored to have seen this sign adorned in his hometown.