Daines, Tester Introduce Legislation to Designate Three VA Facilities in Honor of Montana Veterans

U.S. SENATE — Ahead of Memorial Day, U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester introduced legislation to recognize the commitment to duty and personal courage of three Montanans by introducing a bill to designate three Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in their honor. 

The Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Missoula will be designated in honor of David J. Thatcher, the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Billings will be designated in honor Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow (Dakaak Baako) and the Community Based Specialty Clinic located in Billings will be designated in honor of Benjamin Charles Steele. The designations have the full support of Department of Montana Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion of Montana and the Disabled Veterans of America, Montana.

“The World War II generation produced many Montana heroes,” Daines stated. “It is only fitting that we honor the service and the remarkable lives of David Thatcher, Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow and Benjamin Steele by naming three Veterans Affairs facilities in their honor.  Each generation of veterans using these facilities will help keep their memories alive.”

“David Thatcher, Joe Medicine Crow, and Ben Steele reflect what is best about Montana,” Tester said.  “Each one of these Montanans served bravely, and then returned home to be fierce advocates for veterans.  By naming these facilities in their honor, Montanans will continue to recognize their selfless service.” 

Missoula: The Community Based Outpatient Clinic on Palmer Street will be designated in honor of David J. Thatcher.  Mr. Thatcher was an outstanding Montanan.  The humble circumstances of his upbringing in rural, eastern Montana helped him develop a strong work ethic and in 1940, with war raging across Europe, and the clouds of war on the horizon for the United States, he enlisted in U.S. Army Air Corps.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to serve as a tail gunner for a high risk mission to attack targets deep within Japanese controlled territory.  This counterattack would be known to history as the Doolittle Raid.  After finishing the bombing mission and running low on fuel, his aircraft crash landed near the coast of China.  Mr. Thatcher was instrumental in helping the crew reach safety following the crash and for his actions during the Doolittle Raid, he was awarded the Silver Star.  A few years later, the actor Robert Walker portrayed Corporal Thatcher on the silver screen in “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”  After the war, Mr. Thatcher embarked on a career with the U.S. Postal Service and married his sweetheart Dawn.  Their marriage spanned seven decades until he passed away last June at the age of 94.  

Billings: The Community Based Outpatient Clinic on Spring Creek Lane will be designated in honor Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow (Dakaak Baako). Dr. Medicine Crow was an accomplished warrior and esteemed historian.  He was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana and traveled across the U.S. while pursuing his education.  In 1939, Dr. Medicine Crow earned his master’s degree from the University of Southern California, becoming the first member of the Crow Tribe to attain that credential.  In 1943 he joined the United States Army.  While serving as an Army scout during World War II, Dr. Medicine Crow fulfilled the four requirements to become a war chief.  While fighting against the German forces he led a war party, stole an enemy horse, disarmed an enemy, and touched an enemy without killing him.  Later in life he served as the Crow tribal historian, received multiple honorary doctorate degrees, and spoke at venues across the nation.  He was the last Crow war chief, and his passing last April, at the age of 102, was a loss to our nation.  For his lifetime of service to the Crow Tribe, the state of Montana, and to United States, Dr. Medicine Crow was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

From the family of Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow (Dakaak Baako): “We the Family of the late Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow. Are very please and honored that by the efforts of Senator Daines an Senator Tester. You have picked my Father’s Indian Name Dakaak Baako (High Bird) to be placed on the Veterans Building. For the Veterans of American conflicts, for Protection, Freedom and Peace.  I quote my Father’s Motto: ‘Honor comes to him, for the Life you live. Honor comes to him, for the Prayers you make. Honor comes to him, for the Sacrifice you made. Honor comes to him, for the accomplishments you achieve.’” 

Crow Tribal Chairman Alvin Not Afraid, Jr.: “We are pleased to see Senator Daines’ and Senator Tester’s bill to rename the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Billings.   The late Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow (“Dakaak Baako”) was a great Crow war chief, elder and historian, a decorated U.S. Army veteran, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  This is yet another well-deserved honor befitting his valor and long service to the Nation and the Crow Tribe.”  

Billings: The Community Based Specialty Clinic located on Majestic Lane will be designated in honor of Benjamin Charles Steele.  Mr. Steele is remembered my Montanans as a ranch hand, teacher, artist, and Bataan Death March survivor. Born and raised in Montana, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. After he was captured by the Japanese, Mr. Steele’s sturdy fortitude helped him endure a 66 mile trek in the Philippines, a prisoner ship, and a forced labor camp.  He was a prisoner of war in the Pacific Theater of World War II for a total 1,244 days.  Using charcoal to sketch on concrete, he withstood the harsh treatment in captivity and honed his artistic talents.  His artistic expressions were captured on contraband paper, and some of the works he created in captivity were preserved and went on tour through the nation after the war. In August of last year, we lost a warrior-artist when Mr. Steele passed away at his home in Montana at the age of 98.

The bill text is available to download HERE.