Mission Valley Veterans
Center open for business
Tellier (right) and Charlie Blood talk to Lake County Leader reporter
Aimee Niles about the Mission Valley Veterans Center. (B.L. Azure photo)
ST. IGNATIUS - Military veterans have made
sacrifices in their
lives to serve America and their fellow citizens. Many of those who
served paid the ultimate price in America’s wars and in times of peace.
And all of them have paid the residual price - collateral damage - of
their involvement in wars.
Many promises were made to those
that served but many of the promises were not kept and many of those
that were kept were the short shrift version. Consequently military
veterans have had to once again fight for their rights but it is a
lonely fight individually. Every veteran knows that it takes more than
one to win a battle but where does one go for allies after their
service. The answers often were the local fraternal organizations such
as the VFW and American Legion.
Those organizations exist on
the Flathead Reservation but what is often lacking is a building to
hold formal and informal meetings for those organizations. The VFW has
had a physical presence in Polson for a long time and within the last
few years the Ronan VFW chapter has obtained a building to house the
Mission Valley Veterans Center is located just down the street from the
Longhouse on Blind Barnaby Street. (B.L. Azure photo)
Now St. Ignatius has a building to house the
Post 106 there, thanks to the Salish Kootenai Housing Authority and the
Mission Valley Honor Guard. But the Mission Valley Veterans Center is
not just for members of the American Legion or the Mission Valley Honor
Guard, according to Leo Tellier, one of the main pushes behind getting
a place for military veterans in St. Ignatius and a founding member of
“The Mission Valley Veterans Center is not just
for the members
of the honor guard or Indian veterans,” Tellier said. “It is for all
Tellier said he approached the Salish Kootenai
Authority about the possibility of the Mission Valley Honor Guard
purchasing a FEMA trailer from them to house the Veterans Center.
“We had heard they (SKHA) had some FEMA trailers
we asked them about buying one,” Tellier said. “Jason Adams (SKHA
director) said this building was available and he offered it to us at
no cost as long as we serve all veterans.”
The Mission Honor Guard signed a one-year lease
with SKHA in
April and began to move in a month later after doing some minor
maintenance on the interior and exterior.
Tellier is very pleased to have the Veterans
Center in St.
Ignatius. It provides the MVHG with a base of operation as well as a
meeting place for them and other veterans’ organizations in the Mission
and Jocko valleys. There are 36 members of the MVHG with an active core
group of 26. Age and health conditions limit active participation by
“We just didn’t have anywhere for veterans to go
here until we
got this place,” Tellier said of the doublewide trailer on Blind
The MVHG is a very busy group especially with all
activities in Lake County and the Flathead Indian Reservation. They are
a fixture in the area parades but their main duty is providing their
services at funerals for deceased veterans or active military personal
killed while in service to the country. The latter duty is exacerbated
by the MVHG being asked to be present at funerals off the reservation.
They have been performing many graveside services for deceased veterans
in Missoula County site of a new state veterans cemetery.
“It’s nice to have so many members because we have
schedule and many can’t get time off from work or they may have
something planned when we are called upon,” Tellier said.
There are various informational pamphlets and
to military service and benefits related to that service at the center.
Lloyd Jackson, the tribal Veterans Administration
representative, visits the Mission Valley Veterans Center twice a month
to assist veterans seeking help with the morass of VA paperwork.
VA has 10,000 forms and if you’re dealing with the VA you need to fill
out the forms properly,” Jackson said. “Without the forms you don’t
have anything to state your claim on. At first I took it upon myself to
help veterans fill out the forms in the language the VA likes.”
Eventually the Confederated Salish and Kootenai
appointed Jackson to that position to deal with tribal veterans and all
Jackson said that having a physical location such
veterans’ center is critical. It provides veterans with a nice
comfortable place to come and meet with a VA representative as well as
providing them a place to gather for other purposes.
“This is a great place. There will always be
veterans so it
makes sense to have a facility like this for them,” Jackson said. “This
is something that has been needed for a long time and I am really glad
that these guys in Mission went ahead and did the work needed to get
this established. This is a veterans’ information center that has a lot
of beneficial information for veterans. They can come here and find out
what benefits are available to them.”
Jackson said that the VA has gone through some
in the past 10 years and in the last three years the changes have been
for the better.
There are now veterans clinics located in
Missoula that veterans can now go to instead of Fort Harrison, near
Helena. However, he added that for some services the veterans still
have to go to Fort Harrison.
There are flags from all branches
of the military as well as the POW-MIA flag and the Flathead Nation
flag. Photos of the MVHG members at various functions as well as photos
of veterans line the walls as does a Vietnam service banner with an
eagle feather imposed over it.
Tellier said plans are in the works for having an
for the public and veterans. The in-the-works project could include
food, speakers and displays.
The MVHG is also looking for photos of past
parades they have been in, especially those following World War II.
The Veterans Center at 240 Blind Barnaby Lane (two
of the Longhouse) is open from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and
Friday. Presently retiree and Korea War veteran Jack Drowatzky mans the
center and keeps the coffee percolating and keeps a close watch on the
VA representative Lloyd Jackson will be at the
Veterans Center twice a month to assist veterans. He will be there
Wednesday, Aug. 12 and Wednesday, Aug. 26 from 1-3 p.m. each day.
Veterans are advised to bring their DD-214 discharge papers.
For more information about the Mission Valley
Honor Guard Veterans Center contact Leo Tellier at 370-2689.