Memorial ceremony pays tribute to Afghan war heroes
POLSON – A little more than two dozen Mission Valley citizens and veterans made their way to the Lake View Cemetery in Polson to pay their tribute and respect to those fallen Montana military service members who lost their lives in combat serving in the Afghanistan War, the longest war in United States history.
“Today we are gathered here to honor those soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and so many more who have sacrificed their lives during this past two decades in the war on terrorism,” said John Miller, Commandant of the Marine Corps League’s Hellroaring Detachment #1041.
Saturday’s remembrance ceremony, spearheaded by both the Hellroaring Detachment and local veteran groups, served triple duty, honoring Montana warriors lost in the war in the Middle East, the 13 fallen service members killed in the suicide bombing attack at the Kabul airport during non-combatant evacuation operations and helped spread the word about military mental health awareness.
During the solemn bell-ringing ceremony, the 13 Kabul attack service members along with the 39 fallen Montana heroes from the 20-year Afghan War were honored as a bell rang out for each name read one by one.
Among the names read were Bigfork’s Army first lieutenant Edward Matthew Saltz and Polson’s Marine Lance Cpl. Kane Funke.
Killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Dec. 22, 2003, Saltz, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, was the first Montanan killed in Iraq.
Funke died August 13, 2004, from the explosion of an incendiary device during security and stability operations in the Al Anwar Province deep in the heart of the Sunni Triangle in western Iraq.
Before his death, Funke was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal.
In closing remarks, Miller talked briefly about the issue of suicide among veterans and relayed suicide statistics from the Department of Defense. An estimated 7,057 service members have died during military operations since 9/11, while suicides among active-duty personnel and veterans of those conflicts have reached 30,177 — more than four times as many deaths.
The ceremony closed with a moment of silence for service members lost to both combat and suicide.
Miller explained after the service, “We decided to hold this remembrance ceremony because we believe it’s incredibly important to honor our late soldiers, current soldiers and help spread military mental health awareness for those who risk their lives for our country.”