Milton Veterans Monument honors over 500 Veterans

On Sunday, May 29, the Milton Veterans Monument was dedicated in conjunction with the annual Memorial Day Service conducted by the American Legion Post 179.

Milton Memorial

Posted on 6/11/16

By Melissa Anderson

Over 200 people attended the program, dedication, and noon meal. This project was completed in less than a year.

The guest speaker at the Service was Lt. Col. (ret.) Shirley J. Olgeirson who spent over 25 years in the North Dakota National Guard.

In her remarks, Olgeirson said, “Milton might not be as big as it once was, but it still has big spirit, great patriotism and enormous pride.”

Other guests that were invited to make comments at the dedication included Leon Hiltner, Cavalier County Veterans Service Officer; Lancelot Azure, 3rd District Legion Commander; and Arlon Falcon, 3rd District Vice-Commander. Legion members from Langdon and Osnabrock also joined in with Post 179 for the presentation of colors and the rifle salute.

The idea for a veterans monument began during the summer of 2015 when Post 179 Legion Commander Dennis Brown made the suggestion, and Legion and Auxiliary members went to work to make it happen.

“As with many small towns, our organizations get smaller and smaller, and there are fewer and fewer people to carry on our annual tradition of a Memorial Day Service,” Angie Peterson, a member of American Legion Post 179 in Milton, said.

Because of declining population size, the group is concerned that there may be a day when the organization will no longer be able to continue this tradition. As a result of this desire to have an everlasting way of honoring servicemen and women, the Milton Veterans Monument was proposed as an idea for something permanent. The monument is inscribed with all the names of the men and women from the community of Milton who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America since Milton was settled.

A committee of Legion and Auxiliary members worked on the design and details of the project with Hatton Granite Company of Hatton. Several members of the committee went to Hatton, Northwood, and Portland to see their monuments, helping to create an idea of what the committee wanted to do in Milton.

“Our design was different from theirs in that we wanted to include the names of current, deceased, and charter Legion and Auxiliary members as well,” Peterson stated.

The decision was made to include not only the current Legion members but also the names of all servicemen and women who entered the service from the Milton area which we determined included the vicinity of six townships plus the city of Milton.

To find this information the researchers used:

• The names of deceased Legion and Auxiliary members, which are read as part of the annual Memorial Day Service.

• A historical “Honor Roll” military list that had been compiled 50-60 years ago and kept in Post records.

• A previously published “History of the Area, Milton ND”, which was completed in 1982 and contained a veterans section.

“This book provided a vast amount of information from the veterans section as well as family stories,” Peterson shared.

• Military Registry Books that are on file in county veterans service offices.

“Leon Hiltner, Cavalier County Veterans Service Officer, was a great help,” Peterson said.

• Local and nationwide personal connections and many telephone calls helped fill in the remaining information. The research for names, branch of service and rank was only started in October of 2015 and was completed in time for our 2016  Memorial Day Service as a direct result of the hard work and dedication of Auxiliary members Carol Goodman and Helen Bowles.

“There are over 500 names inscribed on the monument as well as information about the American Legion and Post 179 history,” Peterson stated.

Also in the fall of 2015 a fundraising letter was sent out to over 300 “Friends of Milton” to inform them of the project and to let them know that the organization was in the fundraising phase of the project with the hopes of finishing the project by Memorial Day.

“Donations started coming in over the winter, and the response was exceptional and greatly appreciated,” Peterson said.

While the informational gathering process was taking place, Legion members and a local contractor prepared the location last fall for when the monument would be put in place. This included  installing the flag poles for the United States, Legion, North Dakota and POW/MIA flags.

Two other projects were added to the cemetery at the same time – a new flag pole to replace the traditional one at the south end of the cemetery and an “Avenue of Flags”, a line of 20 poles along the road leading in from the main gate.

“These projects were also donated by local and former Milton residents,” Peterson stated.

The monument was placed in the Milton Memorial Cemetery. The decision to place the monument there was decided upon because of the ever shrinking population.

“That location was decided on because the future of the town of Milton cannot be guaranteed,” Peterson explained.

“We felt placing it where people most likely come at least once a year, would ensure future generations honor these brave men and women,” Peterson added.

Milton is one of many towns in the area facing an uncertain future that a decreasing population brings. The need to do something to ensure that the men and women who served honorably in the United States Armed Forces would always be remembered was a driving force behind the hard work and dedication that went into making the monument happen.

“We felt it was very important to have something permanent to pay respect to those who have served our country,” Peterson said, “We feel that we have a continuing responsibility to be a good example of patriotism for current and future generations.”

Fundraising does continue ,and contributions would be welcome for remaining landscaping and additions to the site such as permanent planters, possibly a bench, and ongoing maintenance.    

Anyone wishing to help  support this project may send donations to Milton Veterans Monument, c/o Eagleson-Meling Post 179, 103 East Oakland, Milton, ND 58260.