The first Armistice Day a century ago will be a focus of Veterans Day commemorations around Missoula on Sunday.
Armistice Day in 1918 was when combatants in the first world war ceased hostilities at the 11th hour (Paris time) of the 11th day of the 11th month, ending the most terrible war the world had known up to that time.
In 2018, the day’s activities start with a unique international bagpipe performance long before dawn and continue with a traditional pancake breakfast, outdoor and indoor ceremonies at Fort Missoula museums and Rose Park, a nationwide ringing of the “Bells of Peace,” and a rededication and wreath-laying at the Doughboy Statue at the county courthouse.
The Missoula Pipers will join more than 1,000 others worldwide at 6 a.m. as part of Battle’s Over: A Nation’s Tribute to mark 100 years of remembrance. They’ll all be playing “Battle’s O’er,” a traditional Scottish bagpipe air played after a battle.
American Legion Post 27’s annual Veterans Day pancake feed fires up at 7 a.m. at its headquarters, 825 Ronan St., and outdoor activities at the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History begin at 10 a.m. Featured outside the museum until 6 p.m. will be Hayes Otoupalik’s World War I Renault Tank and Post 27’s replica of a French 40-by-8 railway car.
Veterans for Peace gather at Rose Park Vietnam Memorial from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.
Bells will ring at the military museum and the county courthouse at 11 a.m. as part of the National World War I Centennial Committee’s “Bells of Peace.”
That’ll be immediately followed by the revival of the Veterans Day ceremony and a rededication of the Doughboy statue and plaza on the courthouse lawn.
In some ways, the wreath-laying and speeches mark a return to tradition. Post 27 was formed after World War I, and its women’s auxiliary group was instrumental in securing the Doughboy statue in 1927.
Adjutant Dan Gallagher, a Vietnam veteran, and Post 101 initiated the annual Veterans Day celebration there in the early 1980s. Gallagher’s death in December 2016 and ongoing renovation of the courthouse grounds prompted the post to move the 2017 event to the new pavilion at Fort Missoula Regional Park.
Due to changing personnel at Post 101, Post 27 is taking over the tradition this time.
“It’s a big responsibility,” said John Angwin, immediate past commander at Post 27, paying tribute to the foundation that Gallagher and fellow veteran Dan Krieg laid.
There’ll be a laying of the wreath ceremony, and county Commissioners Jean Curtiss and Dave Strohmaier will speak. Angwin said Gary Sorenson, Mike McCulloch and Ramona Holt will be recognized for their work with the Doughboy statue through the years. But Angwin foresees a much shorter ceremony, in the neighborhood of 30 minutes, so people can make it out to Fort Missoula for opening ceremonies at noon at Heritage Hall.
There, Corey Stapleton, Montana Secretary of State and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, will speak, as will Maj. Gen. Matt Quinn, adjutant general of the Montana National Guard.
That will be followed by a book discussion by Ken Robison, author of “World War I Montana: The Treasure State Prepares” at 2 p.m. at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, and an illustrated talk on one of Missoula’s forgotten doughboys, Clarence Streit, by Tate Jones at the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History at 4 p.m.
Descendants and friends of WWI veterans can apply in advance for free certificates of appreciation.