by Jim Kelly, Chairman, American Legion Fatality Marker Program
State Leaders applauded the program as “…One of the finest projects I have ever seen undertaken by an Organization. . .”
Numerous enough to notice, infrequent enough to startle at seeing, they stimulate reverence, sorrow, sympathy, curiosity, and caution. They affect us all to one degree or another. They are the white crosses which mark the sites of fatal traffic crashes along the highways of Montana. For over 68 years, these white crosses have reminded passing motorists of the dangers of the road, as well as the lives that have been lost on these highways.
Members of the Montana Highway Commission approved and established guideline for the Highway Safety known then as the American Legion “White Cross” program in 1953, with the blessing of then Governor, J. Hugo Aronson. It has received the endorsement of every Montana Governor since.
This Highway Safety Program operated under policies and procedures in place for many years and undergo annual review. In 2007 additional guidance was issued by Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) which specified no advertising; no reflect paint, no lighting or other devices; and no wreaths or decorations placed upon the marker.
It was also in 2007 the name of the program was changed from the White Cross to the Fatality Marker Program. In January, the American Legion Highway Fatality Marker Program was included on the 2007-2008 Official Montana Highway Map. In November, construction, and installation of 5’ by 13’ highway signs at all highway entrances to Montana was approved. These blue and white signs state that the White Marker Program is “maintained” by the American Legion of Montana. For clarity, MDT is not involved in providing materials, installation, or maintenance of Fatality Markers.
While the American Legion attempts to install Fatality Markers at the site of all fatal crashes, not all American Legion Post’s across the state participate. Family members may request installation and/or removal thru the local American Legion Post. These requests often bring closure to a father or mother, a brother or sister, aunt, or uncle, a community, or even a close friend. Should you not have a local Post in your area, you may call 406-324-3990 and leave a message, or google mtlegion.org and the message will be forwarded to appropriate personnel.
The American Legion, commonly known as the Legion, is a nonprofit organization of U.S. war veterans who continue to dedicate themselves to community service. The American Legion provides life-changing assistance and guidance for veterans, military personnel, their families, and communities in thousands of ways every day around the world.