About 50 people braved the chill of the Bad Rock Canyon on Veterans Day to dedicate the South Fork of the Flathead River Bridge to Flathead Valley veterans who have been killed in action.
More than 200 names were read aloud, dating back to Fred W. Wheaton, who was killed in the Spanish American War to Pfc. Nick Cook, a Hungry Horse man killed in Afghanistan on March 7, 2010.
Brian Hattem was there to honor Cook in particular. Hattem’s granddaughter grew up with Nick and the two were very close. Cook posthumously received the Silver Star for gallantry in action, as he sprayed the enemy with machine gun fire so the fellow soldiers in his platoon could get off a mountain during a firefight alive.
Hattem said he talks to local schoolchildren and civic groups about Cook and his story. He’d like to see Cook receive a Medal Of Honor someday.
The idea of commemorating the bridge to those killed in action came from state Sen. Dee Brown of Hungry Horse.
She said the names of the local soldiers were gleaned from a memorial at the Conrad Cemetery in Kalispell — a memorial that isn’t seen by the general public unless they’re at the cemetery.
She said she wanted more people to recognize the fallen, so she carried in a bill in the last legislative session to get the memorial completed at the bridge.
“The South Fork Bridge is dedicated to the everlasting memory of those from Flathead County who gave their lives in the service of their country,” a large plaque in front of the bridge reads.
The bridge over the South Fork is relatively new — it was completed last fall. The plaques sit in a turnout not far from the main road.
Brown worked with the United Veterans of the Flathead to put the plaques together as well as the service. Local veterans read each individual name aloud and then Hattem read Cook’s name — the last on the plaques.
The ceremony ended with the playing of Taps.
Note this story has been corrected from its original version to reflect the right date of Pfc. Nick Cook’s death and Mr. Hattem’s first name.