Memorial Day tribute at Yellowstone National Cemetery

Outlook managing editor
Regal processional. Outlook photo by Kathleen Gilluly. A member of the Eugene Sara Detachment of the Marine Corps League preparing to step out for the Memorial Day processional at Yellowstone National Cemetery. He is followed by members of the Knights of Columbus with the feather plumes and the Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums.
Sen. Jon Tester

Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony honoring fallen members of the military at Yellowstone National Cemetery north of Laurel began with an all unit processional led by the Laurel VFW and the Eugene Sara Detachment of the Marine Corps League followed by the Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums and featured Montana’s senior Senator, Jon Tester. Laurel’s Austin Amestoy sang the National Anthem. It was a perfect Montana day; temperatures were in the mid-70s with clear skies and a light wind.
Tester is the ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and has worked diligently with other lawmakers to improve access to VA healthcare, particularly for veterans who live in rural areas. The Crow Nation’s Chairman, A.J. Not Afraid, a Marine Corps veteran and Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox also addressed the noon gathering at the Yellowstone National Cemetery.
“So many Montanans have and continue to answer the call to serve when America needs them most. These courageous men and women know the value of freedom and understand what it means to sacrifice to protect it,” Sen. Tester said. “We are here today to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I can’t think of a better place to honor the men and women who gave their lives than the only nationally recognized veterans’ burial ground in Montana. The Yellowstone National Cemetery is a testament to the sacrifice of Montana’s bravest.”
Sen. Tester recognized the work of the Friends of the Cemetery, members of the Crow Nation, the Northern Cheyenne, representatives of veterans’ service organizations and the many veterans in attendance before addressing issues of accountability at the VA.
“I believe many of the people here today would agree with me that the folks at the VA are honest hard-working people who are passionate about caring for veterans,” Sen. Tester said. “But a handful of bad apples continue to give the entire VA a bad name.”
He introduced John Olsen, who served with the U.S. Navy on Project SHAD when the government conducted testing of biological and chemical agents on Navy personnel. Despite the passage of over five decades since he was in the military, Olsen still hasn’t received veterans’ benefits because of the classified nature of his work. Tester also discussed improvements to the Choice Program and care for women veterans.
“I’m committed to working with the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and every member of congress to ensure that the Choice Program works the way it was intended to, the VA can get rid of the dead weight faster, and to make women veterans more comfortable,” Tester said.
He mentioned that bipartisan legislation has been introduced to rename the two Billings veterans’ clinics after Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow and Benjamin Steele and noted that, “It’s often said that how we treat current and past generations of veterans—veterans like John Olsen, and so many here today—will determine the willingness of tomorrow’s young people to serve their country.”
Yellowstone National Cemetery received its designation as a national cemetery in 2014. Sen. Tester assisted the Friends of the Cemetery committee which includes former Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, Burt Gigoux and Richard Klose—all whom were in attendance—in getting the designation.


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