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Soldiers Chapel: a place of remembrance

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Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:00 am

With Lone Peak as its backdrop, The Soldiers Chapel, one of the oldest structures in Big Sky, is an awe-inspiring place to worship. This Sunday, a visit to the Chapel isn't your run of the mill Sunday service — it's a memorial service dedicated to the men and women who have given their lives defending the United States.

The Soldiers Chapel will begin its summer season with a Memorial Day Service on Sunday, May 30, at 11 a.m. with Rev. Rick Woienski officiating.

Woienski is a retired Navy Chaplain. During the service a Color Guard will present the flags and taps will be played to at the conclusion.

The Cord Rustlers, a Bozeman choir group of anywhere from 20 to 40 men, will also perform.

Everyone is welcome to the service, with a lunch to follow.

"For a wonderful Memorial Day experience and to be in the company of the Veterans and Armed Services Members, join us," said Katie Grimm, Catholic representative for the board that maintains the Chapel. "It's a very nice service — you really can't find many of them like this anymore. It's very patriotic, Christianity and patriotism."

Interdenomi—national services are held every Sunday morning from Memorial Weekend until Labor Day, with a different minister officiating each service. Services are always at 11 a.m.

"We get a variety of ministers from the Valley," said Grimm. "It's almost like a wonderful circuit of ministers from different denominations that preach from a pulpit. I really enjoy it because I get to hear from other religions and I think that other people appreciate that too."

The Soldiers Chapel was built as a memorial to World War Two's fallen soldiers of the163rd Infantry, a group of dedicated Montanans, as is denoted on the plaque outside the entrance: "Those of the 163rd Infantry, who with courage and devotion, died in pain defending their country and the love of God and humankind."

The Chapel is Christian. It has no membership role; it's maintained entirely by the Sunday service offerings, the mite box at the entrance, voluntary contributions, memorials, and private ceremonies. Described as "a fellowship of believers, a fellowship composed of varied beliefs, but one faith, many viewpoints, and one Christ."

It was designed and built by a former member of the 163rd Infantry, Col. Nelson Story the Third, whose grandfather was instrumental in bringing Montana State University to Bozeman, and his wife Velma. Construction began in early 1955, and in October of that year the Chapel was dedicated.

A striking stained glass window adorns the wall of the church above the doorway, depicting the theme of the Chapel: A mortally wounded soldier in a lush tropical setting reaching upward to receive the hand of God. The glass was conceived and designed by Sergeant Jack C. Gunter of the 163rd Infantry.

Outside the Chapel is a small cemetery, the only one in the Big Sky area. It's full now, with many of the tombstones conveying the names of people that were vital in developing the Big Sky community, like Chet Huntley, the newscaster who started the Big Sky Resort just before his death in 1974. Or Dorothy Vick, who was instrumental in getting the Gallatin Women's Club started. Vick, who neighbored the Chapel, donated the land for the long driveway leading up to it.

The Soldiers Chapel is open continually during June, July, August and September for meditation and prayer, and visitors are always welcome. Weddings and baptisms are scheduled.

They grow not old as we that are left to grow old

Age shall not weary them nor let the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

-From the Royal Australian Air force

-Plaque displayed at The Soldiers Chapel

© 2015 Big Sky - Lone Peak Lookout . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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