Plaque honors MT women veterans of WWI
By Ed Kemmick
via Last Best News
Billings, MT – One hundred years to the day after the United States entered World War I, 23 female veterans of that conflict received a long-overdue salute.
A plaque honoring the women, all of whom were either born or buried in Yellowstone County, or entered federal service here, was dedicated Thursday morning on the lawn of the Yellowstone County Courthouse.
Ed Saunders, an Army veteran from Laurel who spent six years finding the female veterans and chronicling their service, called his quest “an effort to shine the light and show the road back home for them, as they have been largely lost to Montana history.”
He said it was the duty of people all over Montana to “follow our lead and find, validate and honor the military service of Montana’s women veterans of World War I.” Dedicating the plaque, he said, was a way of saying, “Well done, women veterans of World War I from Yellowstone County. You are forgotten no more.”
The dedication was attended by local government officials, representatives of local law enforcement, many veterans, representatives of both of Montana’s U.S. senators and more than 100 onlookers.
Three special guests were members of the Mission Valley Honor Guard—all of them female veterans who are also enrolled members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in northwestern Montana.
Saunders’ researches are not confined to Yellowstone County, and one of his most recent discoveries was the service record of Regina McIntyre Early, an Army nurse who served in four hospitals in France during World War I. Early belonged to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and Saunders thinks she might be the first female veteran of WWI who was an enrolled member of an American Indian tribe in Montana.
Saunders recounted her story and those of several of the women listed on the plaque, noting that while no American servicewomen—almost all of them Army nurses or Navy clerical workers—died from hostile fire during World War I, “hundreds died from disease, accidents of war and utter exhaustion.”
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