MONTANA Bell Tour: Powerful Moments, with More Ahead… (posted 12/4/21)

At each event where the unique ship’s bell of the future USS MONTANA is rung to honor our veterans, our active duty military’s future veterans, and first responders, there is a special common reaction. Tears of emotion and gratitude.

Two recent bell tour events were special in their own ways, and another will be.

USSMTC Chairman Bill Whitsitt holds mic for veteran Cliff Baird during TV interview. (Joe Furr photo.)

On November 15 in Great Falls, ringing the bell was submarine veteran Cliff Baird who served aboard the USS Barbel (SS 580) in the 1960s.

A member of the Navy’s Holland Club that is open to those who have been qualified submariners for fifty years or more, Cliff did a wonderful television interview with KRTV/MTN reporter Lindsey Stenger. In the piece aired statewide, he talked about the honor of ringing the bell – and how much respect he has for today’s submariners.

Artist Dwight Billedeaux explains symbolism of peace pipe elements during CSKT Tribal Council blessing and dedication. (B Azure photo, courtesy of Char-Koosta News)

On November 18 the Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes held a moving ceremony of dedication and honor that also included the MONTANA’s bell.

The dedication included the blessing of a beautiful peace pipe crafted by Pikuni artist Dwight Billedeaux. With much symbolism embedded in the pipe, it will be presented to the USS MONTANA when she is commissioned. The pipe is expected to sail aboard her for her entire service life as a reminder that her ultimate mission is to deter conflict by her silent presence, prepared to defend our nation.

With colors posted by the Mission Valley Honor Guard, and flag and honor songs by Yamncut Drum, the solemn honor ringing of the MONTANA bell was by Navy veteran and tribal member Louie Blood.

An excellent Char-Koosta News tribal newspaper article with lots of photos from the CSKT event may be accessed here.

On December 18 the future USS MONTANA’s ship’s bell will be featured at the annual Wreaths Across America celebration at the Montana Veteran’s Home in Columbia Falls.

We hope many will be with us on Saturday, December 18, starting at 10:00 a.m. The entire ceremony will occur outside at the Montana Veteran’s Home Cemetery (so please dress for the weather).

Following the formal ceremony that will include ringing of the ship’s bell, the public is invited to help place wreaths on each of the Cemetery’s 862 graves.


If you would like to explore the possibility of having the future USS MONTANA’s bell come to your community, please use the USS Montana Committee website’s Contact page.