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Crowd gathers at Fort Harrison cemetery so veteran won't be buried alone

Independent Record - 4/19/2019

April 19-- Apr. 19--Not much is known about Hilarion B. Reller, whose ashes were interred at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison on Thursday.

Reller died on March 6 at age 95, according to an announcement from Schnider Funeral Home in the Great Falls Tribune. However, there was no accompanying obituary with the announcement.

Passing along information from the Montana Department of Military Affairs, Scott A. Fields posted on Facebook Wednesday that Reller was a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army from Oct. 16, 1943, to Feb. 3, 1943. It was Fields who invited the public to Thursday's interment, noting that Reller "has no family or next-of-kin available to attend his funeral service and without our support, he will have died alone and be buried alone."

The community refused to let that happen.

Chaplain Col. Daniel Thompson gave Reller's eulogy Thursday in front of about 150 people, including one of Reller's distant relatives. Many in attendance were in uniform, but most were in civilian clothing, and Thompson told them to remember the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces and to be grateful for the U.S. tradition of military strength.

"Who knows how many long days and hard nights that Pfc. Reller spent in the service of our country during the prime of his life," Thompson said. "We owe such a great debt to all the veterans of World War II, for the gift of freedom they handed down to us; they literally saved the world.

"Thanks for coming, and thank him," Thompson concluded, nodding towards Reller's urn.

In addition to the chaplain's eulogy, the ceremonies included a three-gun salute by the Military Funeral Honorary Guard, the playing of taps, and the presentation of a folded U.S. flag to Reller's lone distant relative in attendance. He apparently had heard about the funeral, unbeknownst to Fields until "about 2 seconds before" the services began.

"Just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who showed up for PFC Reller's funeral at the VA Cemetery today," Fields wrote on Facebook Thursday afternoon. "It was a great service, with a great turnout."

Curt Synness is a Navy veteran and can be reached at 594-2878 or by email at He's also on Twitter: @curtsynness_IR

Thom Bridge can be reached at


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