Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Army Sgt. Travis M. Arndt

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Travis M. Arndt, 23, of Bozeman, Montana.

Sgt Arndt died in Kirkuk, Iraq, as a result of a vehicle accident during convoy operations. He was assigned to the Army National Guard's 163rd Cavalry Troop, 116th Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, Missoula, Montana.

Spec. Travis Arndt, a 23-year-old with an easy smile and a contagious laugh, died Wednesday in Iraq, his family said Friday.

"He was a giving person, and he loved to help his friends," his father, Mark Arndt, said Friday. "And I'm sure he was that way in Iraq, too."

A 2001 graduate of Great Falls High School, Arndt was a member of the 163rd Infantry Battalion, part of about 700 Montanans deployed in the last year as part of the 116th Brigade Combat Team headquartered in Idaho.

The Defense Department, late Friday, said that Arndt died "as a result of a vehicle accident during convoy operations."

"He was working as a gunner on the day that he passed," said his stepbrother, Steve Salazar of Great Falls.

"They were in a convoy," said Salazar. "He was sitting in the netting on top of a Hummer, and he got trapped in the netting when the vehicle rolled."

The cause of the rollover near Kirkuk is under investigation, he said.

Arndt had planned to come home on leave the second weekend in October to surprise his girlfriend, Lindsay Logan, on her birthday Oct. 10.

"I honestly believe he planned to ask her to marry him," said Salazar.

The couple went to high school together in Great Falls and had been dating for about three years, said Logan, who is attending college in Bozeman.

"The last time I talked with him, he said that he wanted to come home and go to school and look into becoming a police officer," Logan said through her tears.

His stepmother, Rita Neill of Great Falls, who was married to Arndt's dad until five years ago, said Arndt "was a beautiful, beautiful child."

"He could light up a room with his smile," she said.

Neill said Arndt wanted to join the police force because he was so concerned about the spread of drugs through Great Falls.

"Before that, he wanted to be a teacher because he loved kids so much," Neill said.

Military personnel visited Arndt's mother on Thursday in Vancouver, Wash., and his father in Sun Prairie on Friday.

Great Falls High football coach Gregg Dart announced Arndt's death at a homecoming pep rally Friday morning.

Arndt played football at Great Falls High and was one of the school's top weightlifters.

He was a linebacker on the junior varsity football team at Great Falls High in 1999, his junior year. He was named scout player of the year at the season-ending awards banquet.

Entering his senior season, Arndt was battling for a varsity spot at outside linebacker. He injured a knee during practice for the Bison's second game, however, and didn't see a lot of action thereafter.

"He was a great kid, really a hard worker," Dart said Friday.

"He was always there, encouraging his teammates and putting the well-being of his team ahead of his own," said Dart.

In early May 2001, in the second annual Bison Lifting Contest, Arndt placed second in both parallel squat and power clean of the senior male division.

Arndt also did some boxing, participating in several bouts at the Northwest Center.

He was among 89 GFH students who received a Heisey Award in April 2001.

Arndt could be very competitive about sports, said his best friend, J.R.. Price, now a supply chain analyst for the Goodrich Corp in Jamestown, N.D.

"Travis loved to lift weights, so we went down to Universal Gym a lot together," he said.

"He was a funny, laid-back guy, but you could always tell when he wanted to be serious," said Price.

He remembers long, hot afternoons diving off the rocks on the Missouri River near the Fly Fisher's Inn.

His father remembers that Arndt loved to drive in the mountains in his Jeep.

"Travis had a contagious laugh," Arndt said. "He could change the mood in a room from somber to joyous."

Arndt, who is a student at MSU-College of Technology in Great Falls, said he and his son had talked about taking classes together down the road.

"He really loved all this state had to offer," Arndt said.

Logan remembers hiking and snowshoeing with Arndt in the Rocky Mountain Front west of Augusta.

"He was a really good kid," said Tina Price, finance officer at Great Falls High and J.R.'s mother.

"He was a happy-go-lucky, smiling-all-the-time kid, a really fun guy to be around," she said.

"He looked a little mischievous at times," she added. "And he always had a joke for everyone."

J.R. Price persuaded Arndt to come out to North Dakota and enroll with him at Jamestown College, where Arndt played football for the Jamestown Jimmies.

But he came back to Montana after a semester, in part because he was too far from his girlfriend, Price said.

"Travis wanted to go to school really bad, but he couldn't afford it," said Price. "He said joining the military was an excellent way to help pay for his college education."

His father said that Arndt was born in Tacoma, Wash., and lived with his mother until coming to Great Falls in 1995 to live with his father and attend Paris Gibson Middle School.

In addition to Salazar, Neill and his parents, Arndt has an older sister in Missoula and a younger half-sister in Sun Prairie, as well as a half-brother and half-sister in Washington.

Army Sgt. Travis M. Arndt was killed in action on 09/21/05.

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