- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Culbertson Christian youth groups met at Bethel Community Church and made six blankets that will be sent to “The Wounded Warrior’s Project.” Pictured are (front row, from left to right) Carter Nickoloff, Lance Bengochea, Logan Nickoloff, Sierra Machart, Abby Ator, (back row) Peyton Hauge, Brian Pederson, Lucas Oelkers, Noah Nickoloff, Jacob Crowder, Parker LaQua, Mariah Machart and Paxton LaQua. (Photo by Nancy Mahar)
- Written by John Plestina
The photos [in order] are Chopper, Picard, Styer and Naasz.
Janna Hoehn is on a mission and the efforts by the Maui, Hawaii, resident to locate photos of two of the four Vietnam War casualties from Roosevelt County were fulfilled last week.
Hoehn, a 25-year resident of Hawaii, visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., with her husband six years ago planning to bring home a rubbing of one of the 58,300 names etched on the memorial wall. She did not know anyone who was killed in Vietnam, but the war and its losses touched her as she was in high school at the time, far from Vietnam. She brought home a rubbing of the name Gregory John Crossman, an MIA. She eventually located a college photo of Crossman.
A television news story two years later about “Faces Never Forgotten” for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund that has posted an online memorial with a goal of including a photo of every American listed on the memorial wall caught Hoehn’s attention. She submitted the photo of Crossman. She was asked to locate the photos of more U.S. soldiers listed on the memorial.
Hoehn contacted The Herald-News in early April inquiring about two of the four Vietnam War casualties from Roosevelt County.
She asked if this newspaper could locate photos of Pvt. 1st Class Franklin Delano Chopper of Brockton. American Legion Post No. 61 was named in his honor. The other is Sgt. Michael W. Picard of Bainville. They were the first and second local casualties respectively.
Hoehn had already located photos of the third and fourth casualties, Army 1st Lt. Emil John Naasz of Wolf Point and Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Edward Styer of Phoenix Ariz., who was born in Wolf Point and graduated from Wolf Point High School.
The deaths of all four were on the front page of The Herald-News within one week of their deaths.
Chopper died at 22, at or near Binh Duong, Vietnam on June 13, 1967.
The Herald-News reported the following week that he was killed by accidental friendly fire from a U.S. Army tank while searching an enemy bunker.
Chopper, who was born in Poplar and lived in the Brockton area most of his life, enlisted in October 1966, was home on leave in March 1967 and was sent to Vietnam following his leave, assigned to Co. A, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division.
His funeral with full military rites was held at Fort Kipp Presbyterian Church. He was buried in Fort Kipp Cemetery. He would be 70 years old today.
Chopper has siblings living in Fort Kipp, but efforts were unsuccessful to contact them.
Picard, who grew up on a grain and stock farm 11 miles north of Bainville, became the second casualty from Roosevelt County on Feb. 20, 1968, when the 22-year-old was killed by fragments from an enemy mine in or near Lai Khe, Binh Duong province, Vietnam.
Picard attended Assumption Abbey, a Catholic school in Richardton, N.D., his first two years of high school. He then attended Bainville High School his final two years, graduating in 1963.
Picard served in light weapons infantry with 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry, C Company.
He received the National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.
Picard, who would now be 70 years old, was one of the older of seven children and a role model to his brother, Joe Picard, who is 10 years younger.
“I remember I was in the sixth grade,” Joe Picard said. “He was killed five days before his birthday [would have been 23].”
“I had two brother that were over there,” Joe Picard said.
The other brother who served in Vietnam is Paul Picard of Arizona. He enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly before his brother was killed.
“He was in boot camp when Mike was killed. We wondered if he was going to get home for the funeral. He did,” Joe Picard said.
Before entering the military, Michael Picard played football at Eastern Montana College, now Montana State University Billings.
His mother, Patricia Picard, 92, lives in Arizona.
Picard is buried in Bainville.
Styer was the third casualty with ties to Roose-velt County. He died at age 40, on Jan. 12, 1970, in a collision between two planes on the ground at an airfield in Guam while leaving on a mission.
Styer, who served from 1951 until his death, had been an Air Force aviator and was a former base commander.
He is buried in St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix, Ariz.
Naasz was the fourth fatality, killed by an explosive device on Sept. 6, 1970, at Quang Ngai, Vietnam.
He served in the Army from 1968 until his death and was a unit commander in the 1542 Infantry.
He was a Wolf Point High School graduate. Naasz is buried in Wolf Point.
Photos of Naasz and Styer are on the “Wall of Faces” online memorial with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The photos of Chopper and Picard will be added to the memorial.
The Herald-News contacted Franklin D. Chopper American Legion Post No. 61 in Brockton and Picard’s brother in Bainville and obtained photos.
Both have been forwarded to Hoehn for inclusion on the memorial.
Photos on the online memorial will also be included in the future Education Center that will be adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Hoehn said about 39,500 photos have been obtained but nearly 19,000 are yet to be found.
She is also seeking volunteers to help with the effort
Information about efforts to build the Education Center at the memorial in Washington, D.C., is available at www.vvmf.org/thewall.
- Written by John Plestina
The Roosevelt County Commissioners approved two small subdivisions about 11 miles north of Bainville Monday, April 13.
Glenn and Lloyd DeTienne requested approval of two adjoining identical minor subdivisions of five residential lots each, carved out of 80 acres.
Subdivisions exceeding five lots are classified as major subdivisions and require planning board approval.
In another matter brought to the commissioners, Clayton Stevenson Memorial Chapel made a second request that the county pay for an indigent burial of a woman who died in Faith Home in March.
The commissioners approved the request.
When first brought to the commission in March, Assistant County Attorney Jordan Knudsen said he had not seen any solid evidence that the woman was indigent and recommended that the commission delay a decision.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
In a hearing in Billings Friday, April 10, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters sentenced Ryan Edward Lee, 32, of Fairview to more than 22 years in federal prison for drug and firearms offenses.
Lee was sentenced to 270 months in prison followed by five years supervised release.
He pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense.
In pleadings filed at the time of his guilty pleas, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker told the court that from November 2013 to Jan. 9, 2014, agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation investigated drug trafficking in the Bakken oil fields, including allegations of methamphetamine distribution in and around Sidney.
Using informants and law enforcement controlled exchanges, agents observed Lee deliver methamphetamine to another individual on two separate occasions.
After the first sale, Lee was pulled over by the Montana Highway Patrol for traffic violations. Lee provided false identification and received a warning for the traffic violations.
After the second sale, the MHP again conducted a traffic stop of Lee’s vehicle. Following a pat down search, law enforcement found $2,500 in cash in Lee’s pocket. Once placed in the back of the patrol car, Lee kicked out a window and attempted to escape by fleeing on foot.
After a chase, Lee was apprehended. During a search of Lee’s vehicle, law enforcement officers discovered a metal flip container with a digital scale and approximately two ounces of methamphetamine among other items and drug paraphernalia behind the driver’s seat.
They also discovered, lodged between the seat and center console, a loaded .380 semi-automatic pistol.
A trace on the handgun revealed that Lee had purchased it several months earlier using a false identification and a false name, which was the same stolen identity he used multiple times with the MHP.
In addition, after his arrest and while in custody in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, it was discovered that Lee had attempted an escape by breaking out the window of his cell and that he had been chipping away the wall outside the window for at least three months.
The prosecution was part of Project Safe Bakken, a cooperative effort between federal and state prosecutors and federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in Montana and North Dakota.
Drug crimes in the Bakken area have increased dramatically since the oil boom began in the region several years ago.
Parole has been abolished in the federal system and although Lee may be entitled to good time credit of up to 15 percent of his sentence, the sentence imposed will be the sentence served.
- Written by John Plestina
An infrastructure bill that would benefit eastern Montana and is stalled in the Legislature, along with talk of eastern Montana being left out when it comes to state appropriations, highlighted the Great Northern Development Corporation quarterly board meeting, Tuesday, April 14.
“This past quarter has been busy with travel, mostly to testify in Helena,” said GNDC executive director Martin DeWitt, who is resigning for a new position in Billings.
DeWitt’s last day will be Friday, April 17.
DeWitt said the month of January was spent keeping up with the pulse of the Legislature.
“I also traveled to Helena to testify on House Bill 402, which is an infrastructure bill for eastern Montana that will provide funding totaling $55 million into energy impacted communities,” DeWitt said.
HB 402, which affects all of eastern Montana, passed the third reading with a 59-39 House vote and was been transmitted to the Senate, where the Senate Finance Committee tabled it.
Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said HB 402 was tabled because it is similar to Senate Bill 416 by Sen. John Brendan, R-Scobey, but Brendan’s bill is more of a statewide bill that doesn’t focus on eastern Montana.
“Brendan’s bill doesn’t address eastern Montana like 402 does,” Macdonald said.
He said he will be going to Helena soon and that an effort must be made to get HB 402 off the table.
Several reports were presented at the GNDC meeting. No votes were taken as the board lacked a quorum.