New Black Hills War Monument serves as a special connection to families of local servicemembers lost through the decades
RAPID CITY, S.D. – For sisters Janice, Mary Anne, and Geralynn, they never met their cousin Captain Don Smith. Captain Smith was pilot in the Army Air Corps, before it became the United States Air Force, and was one of the 16 pilots that carried out the Doolittle Raid in 1942.
According to their mother, he was raised in Belle Fourche surrounded by animals. Eventually he became a student and All-American football player for South Dakota State University, with aspirations of becoming a poultry farmer.
“He did a fabulous thing by being part of the Doolittle Raiders,” sister Mary Anne said. “But he was just a quiet, unassuming person just like everybody else. He was an everybody’s person kind-of-a-person.”
Captain Smith died before the sisters were born, but the Black Hills War Monument gave them a chance to keep his story alive.
All around the previous structure in Memorial Park, five granite walls bear the names of service men and women from the Black Hills region that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the country. A sixth wall was added, as there are a total of six, but the wall fell not long after installation and a new one is currently being made.
The wars represented are as follows: World War I through Desert Storm as previously featured in the original memorial, along with the inclusion of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Cold War. Also featured on the memorial is a section with the names of the 13 men and women who were killed in the 2021 Kabul airport attack during the evacuation and a section for POW/MIA.
Marlin Under Baggage has three family members on the walls from three different wars, the most recent being his nephew during the War on Terror. His uncle, a paratrooper, died in World War II and another uncle was killed during the Korean War.
“He enlisted in the army because there was a program going on at the time that had a military escort of remains home where they would bring someone home that was lost overseas,” Under Baggage explained. “So he basically enlisted to bring him home to the Black Hills National Cemetery. So they brought him home and re-interred him in Sturgis.”
For both families, the new monument serves as a reminder of their service.
“You know, freedom is not free, and there is a cost for it” Rapid City resident Steve Cutschall said. “And this reminds people of the cost of the freedom that we have here, in this country that we are all grateful for.”