Submarine veterans gather in Kalispell

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Submarine veterans of the Flathead will gather today and Saturday for the spring meeting of the U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc. Montana Base and for an update on the construction of the USS Montana.

Members of the public are invited to join local submariners for the meeting and presentation on the latest news about the nuclear-powered submarine bearing the state’s name expected to enter commission in the U.S. Navy fleet in about 2 years.

Montana’s Commission Committee Chairman Bill Whitsitt will present plans and progress by the committee, which bears the responsibility of fundraising for state-specific aspects of the warship.

According to Whitsitt, the purpose of the nonprofit commissioning committee is to foster connections between the state and its namesake sub, which will serve the Navy for the next 30-plus years.

The completed submarine, Whitsitt said, will feature a historical and cultural display inside to represent the people and culture of Montana.

The display should act as a continuous reminder of Montana’s support and influence for the crew and visitors of the ship, Whitsitt said.

Funds raised by the committee also will provide aspects of interior décor on the ship as well as an educational grant for any of the crew’s members interested in pursuing a college education in Montana.

So far, Whitsitt said, 90 sailors of the total 135-person crew have been selected.

Small groups of crew members will visit various cities in Montana over the summer, taking in the sites and completing various service projects.

Construction of the vessel, which began in 2015, will take a total of around 60 months to complete, according to Whitsitt.

The spring meeting, held at the FairBridge Inn and Suites (formerly the Outlaw Inn) in Kalispell, begins Friday evening (today) with a cocktail hour at 4:30 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m.

The event continues Saturday with lunch at noon and a meeting at 1 p.m.

Tickets for dinner are $30 per person and lunch is $15 per person.

To make reservations, contact Monte at 406-756-8528. Lodging at the hotel will be $74 per night.

For lodging reservations, call 406-755-6100 and ask for the Montana Submarine Veterans.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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