Families of Fallen Troops Show Resolve in Face of Loss
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 11, 2005 Eight days after she buried her 22-year-old son who was killed in Iraq, and on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Kelly Freudenberg has no doubt that her son gave his life for a worthy cause.
Universal South recording artist Rockie Lynne, left, presents a plaque to Bart and Pam Cedergren, who lost their son, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David Cedergren, in Iraq, during the Tribute to the Troops motorcycle ride, Sept. 10. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"He died for my freedom and your freedom," said the White Bear Lake, Minn., resident on Sept. 10 about her son, Marine Corps Pfc. Elden Arcand, who died Aug. 21 when his tractor and the fuel tanker it was pulling rolled over in Mosul.
"And more importantly, he died for the Iraqi people's freedom," said Freudenberg.
Freudenberg's resolve was not uncommon among Minnesota families of fallen servicemembers who received personal expressions of gratitude this weekend during the second annual "Tribute to the Troops" motorcycle ride and benefit concert.
The ride, which included bikers from throughout the state traveling three separate routes, was planned to honor troops who gave their lives in the war on terror and to thank the families they left behind.
The event will conclude today with a benefit concert headlined by Universal South recording artist Rockie Lynne, a Minneapolis resident and a participating biker.
Despite the anguish of just losing her son, Fruedenberg said her deep faith and conviction that he didn't die in vain has given her a sense of solace.
Arcand "knew 100 percent" that he would be deployed to Iraq when he joined the Army in June 2004, his mother said. "He said he wanted to go and make a difference and help to bring about some good, and I believe he's done that. ... He's a hero."
Less than an hour's drive from Fruedenberg's home, in South St. Paul, Minn., Bart Cedergren and his wife Pam were struggling with their own grief over their son's loss, when more than 50 motorcycles roared up to their doorstep Sept. 10.
Sept. 11 will forever be a dark day for the family. It's not only the day terrorists attacked the United States and thrust it into the war on terror, it's also the day their son, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David Cedergren, died in Iraq in 2004.
"It's not going to be an easy day tomorrow," Cedergren said on the eve of the first anniversary of his son's death. "But then, it's not an easy day for us as a nation, either."
Cederson said his son, a medic with a small-boat unit in Iraq, always had a clear sense of purpose about his mission. "Saving Iraq was his cause," said the senior Cederson. "He understood the risks, but he wanted to - no, really he insisted - that he go."
Jennifer Graftaas of Moose Lake, Minn., one of the bikers, understands the families' grief in a very personal way, as well as their belief in the case that took their loved ones' lives.
Graftaas' cousin, 18-year-old Marine Pfc. Matthew Milczark, died March 3, 2004, in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"They died defending us," Graftaas said of the fallen troops, tears welling up in her eyes. "And what we're doing is keeping their memories alive."