PHOTO: U.S. Army Veteran Charlie Cigrand (left), a graduate of Monticello High School, answers questions for student Allen Taylor following Cigrand’s Veterans Day presentation in the MHS Auditorium Monday. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
Army veteran Charlie Cigrand gave the students and faculty of Monticello High School much to contemplate during a 45-minute slide show presentation in honor of Veterans Day Monday in the MHS Auditorium.
Cigrand, who graduated from MHS with the Class of 2005, served in the U.S. Army from September 2005 to July 2009.
He worked his way up through various stages of service. He started as a rifleman, later became a radio telephone operator, and finally a squad leader in charge of eight soldiers. He was deployed to Afghanistan, where he served from March 2006 through June 2007. He was awarded two Army commendation medals for valor.
Cigrand’s platoon was assigned to prevent passage of Taliban soldiers through the mountains of the Korengal Valley, a 1-by-6-mile mountainous area in Afghanistan.
While there, Cigrand’s platoon encountered firefights, temperatures that reached 120 degrees and conditions of sleeping with “rocks and goat poop,” he said. Three of his comrades were killed in battle during Cigrand’s deployment, and he acknowledged each one with brief summaries of their contributions.
The experiences of his platoon are chronicled in a book written by James F. Christ entitled “Hell is the Korengal.”
Cigrand said he hoped the MHS students, and all American citizens, would use Veterans Day to reflect on four goals: to give honor to the sacrifices of war veterans, to acknowledge their struggles, to understand the significance of previous wars, and to avoid taking our freedoms, rights, living conditions and luxuries for granted.
Cigrand is no stranger to the struggles many war veterans face after their service.
“The reason I think Veteran’s Day is important is because it gives honor to the war veterans that gave sacrifices for our country,” he said.
“I think we need to acknowledge their struggles more. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is the main one, adjustment to life from being deployed. I went through it personally. You have really bad nightmares at night, and you just relive these traumatic experiences.
“I figured out that you can overcome this PTSD, but you have to open yourself to other people. I learned to open up to a select few people I’m comfortable in talking with, and that’s what kind of got this PTSD out of my life.
“I think we need to account for these things and try to help these people out as much as we can, so they can better their lives.”
He also discussed the services his platoon performed for citizens of Afghanistan while there, including construction of roads and schools. The soldiers would bring toys and candy, sent from home, to the children of the area.
“We were showing them that we weren’t there to be a bully,” Cigrand said. “We were there to help out, and part of that helping out was getting rid of the bad guys, and then we could try to make their public lives easier.”
His larger point was that while war isn’t pretty, at times it becomes necessary.
“War comes for a reason,” Cigrand said. “There’s not much glory in war, but it’s something that has to be done, to preserve the safety of our citizens, and preserve our way of living.
“We as a people need to try and learn some of these sacrifices and types of environments that these veterans went through, to better understand them and what they went through.
“We also need to know what we have, how good we have it, and not take that for granted.”
Cigrand attended Kirkwood Community College for two years upon returning to America, and has since transferred to the University of Iowa.