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Service Remembers Montanans Who Died In Iraq And Afghanistan

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MISSOULA - For the first time ever in Missoula, service members who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan are remembered in an official Memorial Day service. For the last 87 years, 10 Memorial Day services have been held across Missoula. For the first time in the Garden City's history an 11th service was added to the agenda on Monday.

Ana Torres lost her brother, Army Sergeant Travis Arndt of Bozeman, in 2005 when he was fighting in Iraq.

"He would have been 32 on the 22nd," Torres said. "I remember my mom waking me up and telling me, and I remember thinking she was lying."

Every year the majority of Torres' family remembers her brother at services in Bozeman. With a young family of her own in Frenchtown, she could never leave town to remember Arndt with the rest of her relatives.

"Missoula never really did much. Most services are in Bozeman or out of town, and we have a family so it's hard for us to go out," Torres said.

For the first time ever in Missoula, families and veterans took part in an official Memorial Day service, honoring the 43 young men who lost their lives fighting for our country in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It's really nice knowing they honor them here, and that they support him here," Torres said.

The ceremony was held at the Iraq and Afghanistan War Memorial at the University of Montana.

"It's amazing how something like this takes on a life of its own," said David Bell, the president of Grateful Nation Montana.

Bell came up with the idea to build the monument on UM's campus.

"It demonstrates the modern UM perspective of our veterans," Bell said.

The monument was dedicated to the heroes in 2011, and last year it became an official state of Montana memorial.

"What it's become is something important, very emotional, to veterans of previous wars and to family members. It takes on a different meaning to everyone," Bell said.

With a service now being held at the monument, Torres said she's happy she can remember her brother in a place he loved.

"It's really nice knowing I'm in a town he loved, a state he loved, and he's always around," Torres said.

 A service will be held every Memorial Day from now on, as a tribute to the Iraq and Afghan service members.

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