The Fallen Soldier Memorial at the University of Montana was dedicated as the official Iraq and Afghanistan veteran's memorial on Saturday, October 26.

Thirty minutes after the final whistle of the Montana-Eastern Washington football game, soldiers, families, football fans and state officials gathered in Memorial Row on the University of Montana campus to witness the dedication.

The UM marching band accompanied the ceremony, which featured short speeches by UM President Royce Engstrom, Governor Steve Bullock, co-founder and President of Grateful Nation Montana David Bell, and Montana National Guard Adjutant General Major General Matthew Quinn.

photo by Peter Christian

Governor Bullock drew attention to Montana's high rate of participation in the military.

"Montana has the highest rate of military service in the nation," Bullock said. "A full 10 percent of our population has served, are currently serving, or who has a family member who is serving in the military."

Bullock also remarked on the unity the Fallen Soldier Memorial brought to an often divided Montana legislature.

"I had the privilege of signing into law the bill that designated this memorial," Bullock said. "The bill sailed through the legislature with bipartisan unanimous support, meaning no one voted against it. The support showed that while there may be differences and disagreements, at the end of the day, we can rise to a higher calling."

Governor Steve Bullock

David Bell, co-founder and President of Grateful Nation Montana said the memorial contains the names of soldiers from all across Montana, small towns and big cities alike.

"We are Montana, because of the men who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan," Bell said. "They are from Bozeman, Helena, Wolf Creek, Missoula, Belgrade, Phillpsburg, Great Falls, Hungry Horse, Kalispell, Ismay, Glasgow, Dillon, Colstrip, Sidney, Shepherd, Fairfield, Lewistown, Chinook, West Yellowstone, Billings, Stevensville, White Sulfur Springs, Bigfork, Troy, Whitefish, Sand Springs, Darby and Glendive," Bell said.

Co-Founder and President of Grateful Nation Montana David Bell

Major General Quinn reminded the crowd of the warrior's ethos, the beliefs that bind them together.

"I will always place the mission first," Quinn said. "I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, and I will never leave a fallen comrade.This memorial provides a solemn reminder to those who serve and who have served, that America will never leave a fallen comrade."

Major General Matthew Quinn, Adjutant General, Montana National Guard

The Fallen Soldier Memorial was officially dedicated on November 4, 2011. The bill to make it the official state memorial was drafted and carried to the legislature by Republican Champ Edmunds and Democrat Cliff Larson, both from Missoula.