HELENA — On Saturday afternoon, friends, family and people who never knew Army Capt. Michael John MacKinnon gathered at the Dearborn rest area north of Helena to remember the soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice.
A bridge on I-15, over the Missouri River, between Helena and Great Falls, is being named in MacKinnon’s honor.
“He’s an exemplary soldier, and I think it’s what people know first hand, that’s what their introduction to him is, but he was so much more than that as well,” said his son, Noah MacKinnon, “He was an incredible person and a big influence on me and what kind of man I should be, great to my mom and great to my sister. His letter home to us is what he wanted everyone to know … he loved his family. He’s a family man, so I think that’s what he stood for the most.”
MacKinnon was born in Helena and graduated from Capital High School in 1993 as valedictorian. He went on to the West Point Military Academy, where he graduated in the top 10% of his of class.
He was deployed in Iraq in 2005 when he was killed in action by a roadside bomb.
MacKinnon was just 30 years old.
His daughter, Madison MacKinnon said, “My favorite thing about my dad is that he always said to keep trying and … with the art and the projects that I’ve done, he always said if I kept doing it I would get better and better, and I really thank him for that and wish he was here today to see it.”
The project is part of Bridges for the Fallen, a nonprofit that works with Gold Star Families to name bridges in honor of fallen soldiers.
Rob Mador started Bridges for the Fallen in 2012.
“Mike MacKinnon died a hero, and it’s really important to us that we are here to honor him and his family because his family needs it,” said Mador.
The Montana Department of Transportation approved the project in August of last year.
The I-15 bridge is the first bridge in the state to make it through the application process. It took more than three years to be approved.
The VFW and the American Legion of Montana have also endorsed the project.
-Reported by Christine Sullivan/MTN News