American Legion leads Memorial Day events

By: 
CHARLIE DENISON
Reporter
Friday, May 18, 2018

Vietnam Veteran Don Bost kneels at the grave of Andre J. Cummins, a Medal of Honor winner who “gallantly assisted in the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and under heavy fire of the enemy” in Santiago, Cuba during the Spanish American War, 1898. A celebration honoring veterans will take place at the City Cemetery, 11 a.m. on Monday, May 28, Memorial Day. Other Memorial festivities will also take place.

Photo by Charlie Denison

Andrew Johnson Cummins is buried in the Lewistown City Cemetery. He received the Medal of Honor in 1898 for his bravery during the Spanish American War. 

Photo by Charlie Denison

 

The last Monday of May is always a tough one for Don Bost.

A Vietnam veteran and American Legion Post 16 Commander, Bost helps put together Memorial Day services at all the cemeteries in town, followed by an extended service at Veterans Park on East Main Street.

Bost does this because he understands the significance of the holiday to those who have served.

“Memorial Day is for veterans,” he said. “It’s an extremely important day for veterans to honor their dead. Other than Veterans Day, it’s the most important day of the year.”

Bost treats the day as such, often emceeing all services.

He’s done this a number of years now; still, it’s a struggle for him to get through a ceremony.

“It gets difficult sometimes,” he said, “and it’s been even more difficult since we lost my friend Tom Killham.”

Killham, also a Vietnam Vet, was Post 16 adjutant. Together, he and Bost expanded Legion membership and turned the Post into one of the top Legions of Montana.

“With about 465 members, we have the second-largest Post in the state,” said Bost. “That’s a large contingent of veteran support.”

There is an awful lot of veteran support in Central Montana, Bost said, and he appreciates the many volunteers who have helped make places such as the Vietnam Memorial at Symmes Park and the Veterans Park a part of the community.

Frank Hanzel, who designed Veterans Park, was one of those veterans who played an integral role in making veteran pride more visible. He passed away earlier this month. A celebration of his life will take place at Veterans Park Wednesday, June 20.

“We are going to miss Frank,” said Bost. “He was really responsible for making the park what it is today. He knew everybody involved, including the major contributors.”

 

Medal of Honor recipient remembered

During Monday’s service at the City Cemetery, Bost plans to honor Andrew J. Cummins, an 1898 Medal of Honor recipient known for “gallantly assisting in the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and under heavy fire of the enemy” during the height of the Spanish American War.

“Honoring someone like [Cummins] is what Memorial Day is all about,” Bost said. “We’ll even have a special Medal of Honor flag for him that’s blue with 13 stars on it to represent the 13 original colonies.” 

Everybody is welcome to participate in the celebrations and honor the veterans. 

Bost said those related to veterans who have passed on are encouraged to pay their respects.

It takes a lot of work to put these events together, Bost said, but it’s always worth it, and it’s an honor for him to do so as a veteran and as part of the American Legion.

“None of this happens without American Legion Post 16,” Bost said. “These kinds of events just don’t exist when there isn’t an American Legion.”

One reason for this is the funding.

“It costs [the Legion] a certain amount of money do to this,” Bost said. “This year we had to replace 33 flags [around the cemeteries and Veterans Park]. It’s an ongoing project. We have a lot of people working on this, including the whole honor guard. They do an excellent job. Like I said, none of this happens without the American Legion.”

A lot of work goes into these celebrations, Bost said, and a lot of people step up to the plate to make the experience something memorable. 

Bost added that the service at Veterans Park is one people don’t want to miss.

“This year Lewistown native David Lynch will deliver a speech,” Bost said. “He’s a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Navy who served on submarines and carriers. We’re also going to ring the bell one time for every veteran from this area we lost in the last year. We’ve lost 50-60 of them.”

Bost said he hopes to have a good turnout, especially at Veterans Park.

 

Memorial Day schedule of events

Sunset Memorial Gardens – 9 a.m.

Calvary Cemetery – 10 a.m.

City Cemetery – 11 a.m.

Veterans Park – noon

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