How do you get chills just before Halloween? Visit a cemetery, of course. Fort Missoula has been a part of Montana's identity since before radio waves, the diesel engine, and the ballpoint pen, but not all of that history is displayed in the museums. There's plenty of it interred at the fort's post cemetery, and there's some stories that these headstones can still tell us.

You can learn about the fort, the cemetery, and see plenty of other history for yourself when you visit Fort Missoula, which I can't recommend enough. I've visited military cemeteries in every state I've ever lived in, and every time it's a sobering and somber experience.

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Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin
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The first person to be buried at Fort Missoula was in 1878, the headstone still stands in the east part of the cemetery with no one else buried in that row. Private William Gerick, who served with the 3rd US Infantry, likely saw combat in the government's wars against Native tribes, more information on which you can learn in the museums on site at the fort.

There's some unusual markers here as well, including this one bearing only the initials "E.A.B." It's by far the shortest headstone of them all, being about 6 inches tall.

Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin
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Who was E.A.B. and what was their connection to Missoula? We may likely never know.

The cemetery is also home to two Medal of Honor winners, whose graves can both be seen as soon as you enter the cemetery on your left hand side.

Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin
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Wounded in the hip and unable to stand, Corporal Garland continued to direct soldiers of Company L until Lakota Sioux withdrew from the Battle of Little Muddy Creek in Montana.

Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin
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Himmelsback was a painter from Pennsylvania before enlisting. His gallant actions in combat during the "Skirmish At Spring Creek" in Nebraska were deemed worthy of his Medal of Honor.

Sadly, the cemetery also contains the graves of many sons and daughters of soldiers stationed at Fort Missoula. There's over 50 children and infants buried here, and these two likely died of diseases like the flu and rickets.

Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin
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It's a harrowing thing, visiting military cemeteries, even though I have no connections to anyone buried here (that I know of.) However, it's a reminder that history is a living, breathing experience which can't be reduced to names and dates in a textbook or pamphlet. To truly experience history is to see it and feel it for yourself.

I'd like to remind everyone that cemeteries should be respected by all visitors. Visiting hours here are from sunrise to sundown every day, and pets are not allowed on cemetery grounds. Please be mindful of other visitors who may be paying respects to loved ones when you visit.

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