Section of U.S. Highway 93 named after Louis Charlo
EVARO – On a cloudy morning, nearly 100 people clustered in the grass alongside U.S. Highway 93 for a celebration. “Finally” was the word most often spoken.
Seventy-four years after his death, the state legislature decided to name a two-mile stretch of highway after Louis Charlo, who fought in World War II.
Charlo grew up near the stretch of highway now named after him in Evaro. Charlo was part of the group that raised flags on Mount Suribachi in Japan, laying claim to Japanese territory. The flag-raising event was memorialized in an iconic photo taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal. Less than a week after the flags were raised, Charlo was killed. He was carrying a wounded fellow soldier out of danger when he died.
Charlo was just a teenager when he left for the war. At age 17 his parents gave him permission to join the military.
On Sep. 26, officials unveiled a sign announcing that miles seven through nine on the highway would be known as the “Louis Charlo Memorial Highway.” Louis Charlo’s younger brother, local poet Victor Charlo, offered a prayer at the opening of the ceremony in the form of a poem he wrote about the end of World War II. “The bomb ignited light years too soon for us all,” the poem concluded.
Representatives for Governor Steve Bullock and Senator Jon Tester commended Charlo’s service and congratulated his family on the honor. A 12-member color guard of veterans marched along the highway bearing flags, including those from the United States, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Canada and Montana.
The Charlo brothers are the great-grandsons of the Salish leader Chief Charlo, who was head of the tribe when it relocated to the Flathead Reservation. The crowd was full of descendants of the revered chief and of Louis Charlo, including Kelly Sorrell. “This is the legacy of my family and of Chief Charlo,” she said.
Students from Two Eagle River’s drum group led a flag song and an honor song.
Louis Charlo’s nephew, Martin Charlo, spoke at the event. He said the dedication is monumental for the entire community. “Louis always looked out for his family, and I hope that this is a symbolic protection of our reservation.”
Louis Charlo’s nephew Shane Morigeau of Missoula is a state representative who authored the bill that dedicated the highway. State representative Marvin Weatherwax of Browning sponsored the bill. Both spoke at the event. A member of Louis Charlo’s family presented Weatherwax with a handmade quilt called “Fire at Night” as an expression of gratitude.
Louis Charlo was awarded a number of honors including a victory medal and a purple heart during his time in service.
Scotty Gardipe a childhood friend of Louis Charlo sees the naming of the highway as long-overdue recognition for a “hero.” Gardipe credits Charlo with earning American people and Native people the freedoms they exercise every day so that they can enjoy their life and land. “Today makes my heart happy,” he said. “I know he’s someplace looking down on us and saying, ‘Oh, finally somebody recognized me.’”