New 9/11 Memorial Looks to Move Beyond Politics of Benghazi Attack

Memorial will be dedicated at the Flathead Lake Lodge's Elk Preserve on Thursday

By Justin Franz

Two years after four Americans were killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, a California man is hoping a new memorial in Bigfork will help move the narrative of the event beyond politics.

Bill Thomas, a firefighter and paramedic in Ventura County, California, has spearheaded the creation of a monument on the Flathead Lake Lodge’s Elk Preserve to remember U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, State Department employee Sean Smith, and CIA contractors and retired Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who were all killed at the U.S. consulate on Sept. 11, 2012. The memorial will be dedicated this week at a small ceremony on Sept. 11.

“This isn’t about politics, this is about remembering four American heroes,” Thomas said.

Thomas has been vacationing at the Flathead Lake Lodge for more than a decade and he and his family fell in love with the area. Because of that he likes to stay abreast of local issues and was reading a newspaper article last year about Tyrone Woods’ father, who had moved to the Bigfork area. That article got Thomas thinking about the Benghazi attack and how there wasn’t a memorial to the people who had died, in part he hypothesized, because the entire episode was still mired in a political blame game here at home.

Soon after, Thomas reached out to Doug Averill at the Flathead Lake Lodge about establishing a memorial at their site. Averill offered a small plot of land and to pay for the bronze eagle with a six-foot wingspan that sits atop the memorial today. The memorial also includes a metal plaque with the names of the four men killed in Benghazi and a the words “a memorial to honor the four.”

“It was just like Sept. 11, 2001,” Thomas said, referencing the terror attacks 13 years ago in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. “These four people were just going to work and doing their job (when they were attacked).”

In order to pay for the plaque and construction of the memorial, Thomas sold commemorative bracelets back home in California. He said the response to the project was overwhelmingly positive and that people who most likely never will see the memorial in person shelled out donations.

This week, Thomas, Averill and others were putting the finishing touches on the project and on Thursday, Sept. 11, a brief dedication ceremony will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. The event will feature a color guard, a flag ceremony and brief comments from veterans about the importance of the event. Beverages and a social hour will immediately following the ceremony. The memorial is located on Quarter Circle Ranch Road, the same spot where the Spartan Race entrance is. For additional information, email [email protected].

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