NewsLocal News

Actions

Memorial Day ceremony back at Yellowstone National Cemetery after pandemic hiatus

MEM WEB.JPG
Posted at 6:01 PM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-30 20:01:43-04

LAUREL — Nearly 100 people gathered at the Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel this Memorial Day to remember Montana’s fallen heroes. This is the first Memorial Day ceremony that’s been held since 2019 because of the pandemic.

It was a solemn and very personal ceremony for visitors like Wilma Wilkins.

“He gave his fight for his country,” said Wilkins.

Wilkin’s late husband, Billy Wilkins, was an Air Force veteran who was stationed in Korea and Japan. He was buried at Yellowstone National Cemetery alongside so many other heroes.

WEB MEM2.JPG

Wilkins made the trip despite having a blood clot in her lungs a couple of days ago.

“But I had to come to the service, it meant that much to me, what these people did for our country,” said Wilkins.

Stephen McCollum is the manager of Yellowstone National Cemetery.

“This is the day of honoring, Veteran’s Day is the day of celebrating, and that’s the big difference,” McCollum said.

He said it’s good to be back after a few years.

“It hurt the community not to have a remembrance or an honoring for their veterans,” said McCollum.

As the cemetery becomes more known to the community, more families are burying their veterans there.

“Since fiscal year 22, which started in October, we have done 140 services to this date,” said McCollum.

McCollum said he’s happy the cemetery can be of service.

“It’s increasing and that’s what we’re here for, we’re here to take care of these families. We’re glad that they found us,” said McCollum.

For Ariauna Andrews, who came all the way from Cody, Wyoming, it was the first time she got to visit her dad’s burial site.

“I’m visiting my dad. He died when I was seven in 2010, so it’s been a while but I came to see him,” said Andrews.

WEB MEM3.JPG

Her father, Jeremiah Wittman, was in the Army and killed in action in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber. For her, the ceremony was special.

“It was amazing, it was really heart-touching, you know,” said Andrews.

Just to know that so many people care about her father and what he did for the country, was all she could ask for.

“Reassuring I guess, it’s closure. That’s the word, closure. It’s where he belongs,” said Andrews.