MISSOULA — The Fallen Soldier Memorial at the University of Montana has been dedicated as the state’s official Iraq and Afghanistan veteran memorial.
The Missoulian reported that Gov. Steve Bullock and other officials took part Saturday in a dedication ceremony.
“We believe that when we give something back, we make our nation even stronger,” Bullock said.
The Fallen Soldier Memorial was unveiled in November 2011 and includes five bronze statues surrounded by granite slabs inscribed with the names of 43 Montana soldiers killed in the wars. Montana lawmakers last spring approved designating the monument as the state memorial.
“This memorial is just one example of the way that we honor the service they gave for our country and for what ultimately turned out to be the ultimate sacrifice,” said David Bell, co-founder of Grateful Nation Montana.
He said the community response to the memorial has been positive since it was first unveiled.
“The feedback has been really heartening because family members and members of the community have an emotional connection to that memorial in ways we never imagined,” Bell said.
One of the names on the memorial is that of U.S. Army Cpl. Antonio Burnside, who died at age 31 when his patrol came under small-arms fire in 2012 in Afghanistan.
“Just awfully proud of him,” said his father, Bob Burnside. “Not many people get to go out and say, ‘I’m a hero.’ I’m glad they honor these kids here.”
Travis Arndt, a U.S. Army National Guard sergeant, died in 2005 in a vehicle accident during convoy operations, the Department of Defense said.
His mother, Michelle Torres, said she stops at the memorial when she comes to Missoula to visit her children and grandchildren.
“When I do come to town, I usually do come and sit and visit with this,” she said, gesturing to the plaque where her son’s name is chiseled in stone. “I really miss him.”
University of Montana President Royce Engstrom said the school is a good place for the monument. About 550 veterans are currently studying at the university.
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