The Native American warrior memorial at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (Photo courtesy of Nathan Satran | Visit Southeast Montana).
According to “World Population Review,” Montana has the third-highest number of military vets per capita, just slightly behind Virginia, with Wyoming being a close fourth. Alaska has the most with 8,999 per 100,000.
Visit Southeastern Montana compiled a list of six places where you can honor these courageous individuals on Veterans Day – or any day. These destinations serve as a reminder of the incredible sacrifices made by members of our U.S. armed forces and their families.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Memorial
One of America’s best known historic landmarks sits just outside Crow Agency. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument commemorates the events of the Little Bighorn Battle, also known as the “Battle of Greasy Grass,” that took place June 25-26, 1876. The very ground almost reverberates with the intensity of the American Indian warriors who fought for their land and nomadic way of life when attacked by the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary. Adjacent to the visitor center and museum, Custer National Cemetery has almost 5,000 graves of unknown veterans from all of our nation’s wars, Indian scouts and Medal of Honor recipients. Don’t miss the Indian Memorial, Last Stand Hill or the Reno-Benteen Memorial.
Rosebud Battlefield State Park
Just about an hour away, a precursor to the Battle of Little Bighorn, took place on June 17, 1876. Otherwise known at “The Battle Where The Girl Saved Her Brother,” the rolling hills of this state park are full of stories, but the landscape still looks very much the same as it did in the 1870s, which makes it a good place for reflection.
Canyon Creek Battlefield National Monument
Canyon Creek Battlefield National Monument memorializes the second-to-last battle between the Nez Perce tribe and the 7th U.S. Cavalry. This monument sits just eight miles north of Laurel on Buffalo Trail Road. The battlefield encompasses both private and public land; please be respectful and stay on public property. Visit the pavilion, stone monument and bronze plaque to learn more about the warriors who fought in this battle and local conflicts that took place more than a century ago.
Montana Purple Heart Memorial
On the lawn adjacent to the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, you will find more than 5,000 names inscribed in black granite that makes the Montana Purple Heart Memorial. The memorial was dedicated in 2001, built to honor men and women of the U.S. armed forces who were wounded or killed while in battle for our country. The names inscribed represent veterans who served as far back as the Indian Wars up to the Afghanistan War.
Other memorials and cemeteries include Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel and Eastern Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Miles City, plus Mountview Cemetery in Billings, Rosebud County Cemetery in Forsyth and Lame Deer Cemetery in Lame Deer.
Carter County Museum
Museums are a great place to learn more about past wars—near and far—and those who fought in them. Carter County Museum in Ekalaka has a complete military exhibit in the dedicated Veterans’ Room. This display possesses uniforms, accoutrements and memorabilia dating all the way back from the Indian Wars in the 1800s to modern day conflicts like Desert Storm. Many of the artifacts in this collection come from families in the area who have donated relics, and stories that came with them, to be preserved and shared with future generations. The best part about small town museums are the volunteers and staff, who are intimately familiar with each of the narratives behind the exhibits. Their stories bring the displays to life.
O’Fallon Historical Museum
The O’Fallon Historical Museum boasts an impressive military display of World War I and II artifacts. This exhibit is uniquely situated in part of the museum in what used to be the Fallon County Jail, built in 1916. This small-town museum, located in Baker, is filled with local stories and relics passed through generations. While you are there, Baker is also home to the Fallon County Veterans Memorial located at the city park. There are more than 1,500 names engraved on the memorial honoring veterans who served in the Civil War to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Big Horn County Museum
Located in Hardin, this extensive museum is open year-round and includes a diorama of Fort Custer, which was erected nearby after the Battle of Little Bighorn. History buffs will enjoy the extensive collection of military items including full cavalry uniforms, original newspapers that announced the U.S.’s defeat and locally-collected and curated artifacts. Plan to visit during the annual Live History Day during Little Bighorn Days, which runs in conjunction with the anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn each June.
There is much more military history to explore out here in Southeast Montana, including unique military displays such as the Pierre Wibaux Museum, Powder River Historical Museum, Rosebud County Pioneer Museum and Musselshell Valley Historical Museum. Visit their websites for more information; most are open seasonally or potentially by appointment.
Not sure where to begin? View our Salute to Military map, which lists more than 15 cemeteries, exhibits and memorials across the region that honor our active military and military veterans. Or stop at a local American Legion or VFW. Many contain exhibits specific to that community, such as the John E. Schwartz World War II “Nose Art” collection, located at American Legion Post 32 in Terry, which includes photos and art of WWII bombers.
Brenda Maas is the marketing director for Visit Southeast Montana.
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