Libby’s WWI memorial rededicated

top: Mayor Brent Teske speaks at the dedication of the new WWI Memorial in Libby held on Sunday, May 26. Photo courtesy of  Dee Teske. bottom: Veterans raise an American flag during the ceremony. Photo by Brian Baxter, The Montanian.

By Tracy McNew and

Brian Baxter

 

Libby’s WWI memorial statue was returned to her home on Lincoln Ave. near Timberline Auto recently after being refurbished.

On Sunday, May 26, a ceremony was held to rededicate the memorial. Approximately 60 people were in attendance. American Legion Post 97’s Commander, Larry King, read the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, which was written during WWI. Mayor Brent Teske then read a short statement that also described the war which lasted from 1914 to 1918. He shared that the original memorial was erected in 1922 in honor of the sacrifices made by soldiers who lost their lives during the war.

The original statue, called Remembrance, was purchased for 850 dollars from a company in Spokane, Washington and it’s base was engraved with the names of active duty veterans from Lincoln County, Montana who died while on active military duty. The statue is of a robed angelic figure with a merciful look and her hand over her heart as she looks downward sadly.

The first name engraved below the statue on a plaque is Private Austin F. Reedy, 163 Inf. 41 Div.; 127 Inf. 32 Div.; killed in action (K.I.A.) on July 31,1918 in Chateau Thierry, France. Reedy was the first Libby soldier K.I.A. and the namesake of our American Legion Post 97. It has often been said that no greater sacrifice can be made than a person laying down his life for his brethren. The battle of Chateau Thierry was fought between May 31 and mid-August 1918, and was one of the first actions of the American Expeditionary Forces under General John J. (Blackjack) Pershing.

The second name engraved below the statue is Sergeant Harper M. Erdman, 104 Inf.; 163 Inf.; 26 Div.; K.I.A. October 31, 1918 in the Argonne Offensive, in France. Erdman is the namesake of Libby’s VFW Post 1548. The Argonne Offensive was also known as the Meuse – Argonne Offensive and was a major part of the final Allied Offensive that stretched along the entire Western Front. The battle was fought from Sept. 26, 1918 until the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918. The other soldiers names engraved are Private Neil H. Jouchin, Private Fred G. Fedorchuk, and Private Robert David Huson. It is important to remember the true expression that Freedom Is Not Free.

An article dated April 5, 2017 from the Great Falls Tribune stated that everyday during World War I, an average of 6,000 soldiers died. They died from artillery fire and the Spanish flu. They died in plane crashes and sunken battleships and blood – and mud filled trenches, in tangles of barbed wire and rains of machine gun fire. On April 6, 1917 the U.S. declared war on Germany, and 12,500 Montanans enlisted while another 28,000 were drafted. All told, 40,500 Montanans served in WWI. Montana lost 939 Servicemen killed in action.

In Libby, under our Remembrance statue is also engraved, “Who Gave Their Lives That Liberty Might Not Perish. May 30, 1922.

The original statue was vandalized and had to be replaced with a new one in 1969. This memorial statue’s refurbishment was a joint effort between Libby’s American Legion and VFW Posts, The Lincoln County Veteran’s Memorial Foundation, group and individual donors. Donations are still being accepted Mayor Teske said.