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Ed Saunders and WWI plaque

Ed Sunders shows a life-sized replica for a plaque honoring women veterans of World War I that will be permanently installed on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn. A ceremony to mark the occasion is at 10 a.m. Thursday. Saunders spent five years researching Montana women veterans.

After going unrecognized for nearly 100 years, women who served in World War I with ties to Yellowstone County will be honored for their service.

The county commission on Tuesday voted to approve installing on the courthouse lawn a bronze plaque bearing the names of 23 women veterans of WWI. Twenty-one of the women served in the Army while two women served in the Navy.

The plaque is being provided by the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 10 and will be dedicated on April 6, which is the 100th anniversary of the United States entering WWI.

The memorial plaque is the work of Laurel resident Ed Saunders, an Army veteran and DAV Chapter 10 member.

Saunders spent five years researching military and medical records in Montana and Washington, D.C., and elsewhere to document the service of the 23 women veterans who either were born in the county, entered the service from the county or are buried in the county.

Saunders, who made a presentation to the commission on Tuesday, said the memorial plaque for WWI women veterans will be the first in the county and probably in the state.

Although women still could not vote in federal elections, women served in WWI in the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps, mostly as nurses or in administrative posts.

Their service was largely forgotten, Saunders said, something he has dedicated himself to correcting.

Saunders asked commissioners to correct “that unacceptable and long-standing error” with the memorial plaque.

Yellowstone County will provide the cement for a base while the DAV will pay for the bronze plaque. The memorial will be located on the south side of the large circular planter, separate from the existing veteran memorials, and facing a trio of flag poles.

“I think that’s a great idea. We’re looking forward to the ceremony,” said Commission Chairman John Ostlund.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.