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A bell-ringing ceremony Saturday in Rapid City will honor submarines and more than 3,500 submariners who perished while serving and defending the United States.

The public is invited to the Tolling of the Bells, which is part of the James Madison Reunion Association’s 2019 reunion. The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the Ramkota Hotel. Depending on weather, Tolling of the Bells will take place either in the northwest parking lot or the Sylvan Room. The public also is invited to view a 23-foot model submarine on display in the parking lot in front of the Ramkota.

“There was 60-plus submarines lost since 1917, and several before World War II and several after. We toll a bell for each boat. It’s a ceremony we do every time a bunch of submariners get together,” said Don Hix of Rapid City.

The James Madison Reunion Association holds a reunion every other year for submarine veterans from the USS James Madison (SSBN-627) and their families. The USS James Madison was the lead ship of her class of ballistic missile submarine. It was launched in 1963, commissioned in 1964, and decommissioned and scrapped in 1992.

Hix served as a nuclear-trained interior communications electrician aboard the USS James Madison from 1966 to 1968.

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“I drove the submarine,” he said. “We were a major deterrent in the 41 For Freedom — 41 missile-carrying submarines that patrolled within missile range of Russia, basically.”

In the 1960s, submarines were a major component of the United States Strategic Triad of land-based ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and submarine-launched missiles. The purpose of the nuclear triad was to reduce the possibility of an enemy destroying the nation’s nuclear defenses. That possibility was considered an imminent threat during the Cold War, according to the Submarine Force Museum in Connecticut.

In addition to the Tolling of the Bells ceremony, retired submariners in western South Dakota are invited to the Polaris Base submarine veterans club, which meets on the third Saturday of odd-numbered months at Perkins at Interstate 90, Exit 61. For more information about the club, call Don Hix at 545-2075.

For more information about the James Madison Reunion Association’s reunion, go to ussjamesmadison627.com/

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