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Honoring WW1 Veterans

Bronze medallions sit on a bench outside the Yellowstone County Courthouse after county workers removed them last month to be cleaned and, perhaps, displayed.

Many of the bronze medallions installed a decade ago in concrete in Courthouse Square to honor Yellowstone County residents killed during World War I have gone missing.

Yellowstone County commissioners decided Thursday to remove the remaining medallions, clean them and store them with some medallions that were not installed until a committee can determine how to properly display them.

Commissioner Denis Pitman said that spot could be in a display case in the Courthouse lobby.

“They are small, and the wear and tear is apparent,” Pitman said.

More than 50 Yellowstone County residents were among the nearly 117,000 Americans killed during what was then known as the Great War. A little more than half of the medallions honoring their lives remain.

Last year, the Montana State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Shining Mountain Chapter asked in a letter to commissioners what could be done to find a permanent location for the markers, which had been placed in Courthouse Square as part of an Eagle Scout project about 10 years ago.

A number of the medallions have been removed, although Pitman found a box with a few of the never installed medallions in his office.

Following Thursday’s commissioner discussion, the county’s facilities superintendent Greg Erpenbach, together with Harold Lott, building engineer, were removing the remaining medallions in Courthouse Square. 

Pitman and Commission Chair John Ostlund said they’d serve on a committee with Ed Saunders, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, and Kevin Kooistra, executive director of the Western Heritage Center, to determine how to proceed.

Kooistra said the Western Heritage Center will be hosting an Armistice program in November. The story of the medallions could play a role during that program, Kooistra said.

“It would be interesting,” he said, “to have some of them there for that.”

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.