By Ron VandenBoom
Joe Mazurek, attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor, told a crowd of more than 200 guests attending Memorial Day ceremonies Monday the living have a collective responsibility to those who died in America's wars.
"It is for we the living to prove that we are worthy of their sacrifice and their dedication toward the peace that was purchased by these honored dead," he told the crowd. "This is something we must live up to each and every day."
Mazurek added that perhaps the best way to honor those who died in America's wars was to teach the nation's children and grandchildren the importance of freedom and justice for all.
"We must continue to honor their sacrifice by making sure that none amongst us stands alone in the face of hatred, bigotry, or intolerance," he said.
Mazurek, a Vietnam era veteran and a member of the American Legion post in Helena, noted that for most veterans, the years spent in the military has an enormous impact on them.
"No doubt it had something to do with the pervasive uncertainty during a time of war," he said. "But we certainly seem to pack a very concentrated amount of hardship and friendship into those few years."
He noted that as a veteran who was trained in war but saw no combat, he has some appreciation of the risks of war. "But I'm not sure I can fully understand the level of risk that so many of you who served in combat took so routinely and yet so courageously," he said.
Explaining that he, like most baby boomer families, had his own set of war stories, he recalled an uncle that was a Marine Corps officer that served in the United States during WW II and another uncle that served as a bomber pilot in Europe.
He recalled that he also had an uncle that spent the war in prison because he was a conscientious objector that refused to cite his religious beliefs as the basis for his conscientious objector status.
He also recalled that his mother and one of her sisters served in the Women's Army Corps during WW II and his dad was a Navy chief that fought in the Pacific and was one of the fist in Nagasaki after the dropping of the bomb.
"My father ... steadfastly refused to talk in any way whatsoever about the actual experiences of battle," Mazurek said. "Like so many who served, he simply did his job, did it courageously and did it well. And when it came time to come home he put it behind him."
Mazurek said he had come to understand and respect that feeling, but agreed with his father who told him he would never believe or understand what he had gone through.
Mazurek joined the crowd on the lawn of the Hill County Courthouse prior to giving his address as the United Veterans of Havre honored the war dead by lowering the flag to half mast, placing wreaths at the Veteran's Memorial, and firing an 21 gun salute.
After the ceremonies the community was treated to a free lunch of beef stew.