Southwest Montana military and guests ‘Dine Out’

By 
J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Never forget

Amber Spencer, U.S. Army, places a yellow ribbon on the table set for those in the military who did not return to their loved ones from military action during the “Tribute to the Fallen.” J.P. Plutt photos

The Grog

A most robust concoction, The Grog served a featured role in the ceremony. For those not so inclined, a non-alcoholic alternative was available.

Addressing the Grog

Ranking officers on the ceremony from each branch of the military and other dignitaries take their turn participating in Dining Out tradition.

Military Dining Out entered the Dillon stage in 2013 through the efforts of Trent Gibson and friends. Gibson is the director of the Montana Youth ChalleNGe Academy and a colonel in the Montana National Guard serving as the director of logistics. The event suffered a COVID cancellation the last two years but returned to Dillon Elks Lodge #1554 on Friday night.

The gathering drew military veterans from numerous different branches and eras, bonded by the shared experience of service to the United States of America. A former member of the Montana Air National Guard, younger than most of those in attendance, became overwhelmed while giving a toast at the Grog, saying that it was his first interaction at a military gathering since he retired eight years prior. He was appreciative of the opportunity to join others of a military background in such a festive setting.

The tradition and ceremony of the military served as the script of the evening and those in attendance participated with enthusiasm.

Military Dining Out

The Dining Out is similar to the Dining In, the exception being that the commander can invite spouses and friends to the officers mess to show appreciation for the support provided to the command by family members and friends.

The Dining In is shrouded in the history of the military, originating in the tenth century, where a widely dispersed student body gathered periodically to exchange ideas in a common atmosphere. The dining in was quickly adopted by military units of that period. Commanders realized that camaraderie among their members was extremely important to the effectiveness of their organizations, and further, that a formal banquet provided an excellent situation in which to recognize outstanding personnel.

During both the first and second world wars, American forces in Europe were exposed to this custom and readily assimilated it into their traditions. The British combined the best aspects of their own mandatory messes with those of allied units.

In general, the Dining In is a formal banquet in which a high degree of military atmosphere is maintained, together with an air of tradition and fellowship. It is customary during these contributions to the service, to hear an address by a distinguished guest, and to present a series of toasts to dignitaries, heads of state, and to our fallen comrades.

Tribute to the Fallen

As the narrative of the ceremony was read aloud, members of the gathering walked forward and placed items on or near the table. At the conclusion of the ceremony, following 30 seconds of silence, Vice President Ron Carroll presented a toast, “Ladies and gentlemen, I propose a toast to our fallen comrades.”

The gathering responded, “To our fallen comrades.”

Setting the table for Tribute to the Fallen narrative:

“The War Of Independence was fought from 1776 to 1782 by a volunteer force assembled from the original 13 colonies. These brave patriots brought us our independence from great Britain. This rifle was recovered from the hands of one of the first to die for our freedom in a small field near concord Massachusetts, following the first armed conflict between the militia and the British troops. ”

“World War II was the most devastating war in human history. Millions of lives were lost in defense of the world’s freedom. This chair represents the thousands of mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who waited at home for the 292,131 Americans who would never return.”

“Communism from the north brought war to the Korean Peninsula in 1950. The United States lost 23,300 to gain armistice in July 1953. This rose represents the hopes and dreams of peace for each held by our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the people of South Korea.”

“58,148 casualties came with the cease fire following 10 long years of direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. This glass of wine represents all of the life’s hopes and dreams never realized by those who were lost”

“This yellow ribbon represents the hopes and prayers of the thousands of families and friends who asked for the safe return of their loved ones from Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Of over 500,000 U.S. service personnel, hopes and prayers for 294 went unanswered.”

“The lighting of this candle serves to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice our fallen comrades and their families have made to preserve the precious freedom we cherish here today. In small tribute, I ask that we take a moment of silence as an expression of our gratitude to those who have sacrificed for us.”

The Grog Ceremony

The Grog is a noble beverage. It is the preferred drink of any Southwest Montana serviceman or servicewoman, it has a taste that is robust, yet smooth and color is like that of battle itself. For the base we have chosen the rucksack which symbolizes the weight that must be carried by every serviceman and woman.”

“The U.S. Military has its origins from the militia who would fire the first shots at the Battle of Concord and Lexington, which gave birth to our great nation. In honor of these men we will add blood. Blood is the currency of our freedom.”

“In the late 1860’s following the Civil War, the real action was in the west, and the Montana Territory was the sight of many major battles and skirmishes. Montana volunteers fought during the Indian Wars on the plains of this state. For these builders, pioneers and explorers we add wild turkey.”

“In 1887, the first Montana volunteers were organized. It was here that American ingenuity, tenacity and panache carried the day. These characteristics were to serve the militia throughout Montana history. In honor of these first Montana militiamen, we add whisky.”

“The Spanish American War was the first test of the Montana militia. The mission was to guard and to defend Manila and provide sentries for General Arthur MacArthur. The Battle of Caloocan was won by the charge of the Montanans under heavy fire from the Filipino riflemen. Montana soldiers raised the American flag over the capital of the Philippine insurgents. It was here that our troops realized that there was and is nothing glorious about war, except the soldier. To the Spanish-American War, where volunteers bled and died, we add rum.”

“The threat of war with Poncho Villa, Mexico’s rebel guerilla fighter, resulted in mobilization. Montana volunteers were sent to Douglas, Arizona to guard and protect the civilian populace and the industry of Douglas. The mayor of Douglas praised the Montana men by saying, ‘it was a hell raising regiment, every man a man, with a man’s faults and virtue’s and not a weakling in the lot. In honor of these hard-charging, hard-living men we add tequila.”

“With World War I the Doughboys went to France and fought in the trenches. Montanans were recognized for their courage and valor in every major campaign. It was this fighting spirit that brought the kaiser to his knees and ended the war to end all wars. In their honor we add wine.”

“In 1940, the Montana Guard left for annual training - many would not return and some after six long years. They fought in the island hopping campaigns in the Pacific Theatre of Operations where the 163rd earned the nicknames ‘Bloody Butchers,’ ‘Sheepherders,’ and the ‘Jungaleers.’ They fought with commitment and competence, serving as an example of what fighting for a just cause can accomplish against insurmountable odds. To their memory we add the survival staple of the islands, coconut rum.”

“On 7 December 1941 the U.S. Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor in an attempt to cripple the mighty Pacific Fleet. In memory of all the battles won and lost in the Pacific we add oil that still leaks from the USS Arizona today.”

“When American troops arrived in Korea in July of 1950, they found themselves in a hot, humid climate that showed them no mercy. A few months later marines experienced just the opposite in the Chosin Reservoir, when temperatures dropped to extreme, subzero cold. We remember the Montanans who faced these hardships and lost their lives in America’s Forgotten War by adding cold weather gear (green wool sock) and snow.”

“The Vietnam War became known as the longest conflict in U.S. history. Montana would lose 271 men to the conflict. In remembrance of those willing to ‘pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival of liberty’ we add dog tags.”

“The Gulf War brought the troubles of the middle east home to much of Montana. The U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi forces and liberated Kuwait. This war demonstrated to the world the supremacy of American air power and that no country could match the US. Air Force. To commemorate those who lost their lives in this conflict we add jet fuel.”

“Operation Iraqi Freedom transplanted Montanans from the rocky mountains to the desert sands. Hot weather tested the limits of the mercury thermometers but did not break the will of Montanans station there. We remember those who fought and died in Iraq by adding sand.”

“Operation Enduring Freedom has now become America’s longest war. They call Afghanistan the place where empires go to die. American sons and daughters have gone to Afghanistan in defense of an attack on our home soil. This rock has been taken from the mountains of Afghanistan. This rock not only represents those who have fought and died in our longest war, but it also symbolizes the rock of the American spirit. Thanks to the men and women in our armed forces, this region can now be called the place that Osama Bin Laden went to die! President Gibson, “Master

of the Grog are we forgetting anything?”

Master of the Grog Ben Stewart, “Ah yes Mr. President. We are missing the one thing that demonstrates the toughness and true grit of the Montana serviceman – tobacco spit, and finally we need to enchant the Grog.”

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