A Minnesota soldier died in Iraq on Sunday when his semitrailer truck rolled over, throwing him to the ground and crushing him before it came to a stop, the Pentagon and his family said Tuesday.
Army Pfc. Elden D. Arcand, 22, of White Bear Lake, was one of two soldiers killed in the accident near Tal Afar in northern Iraq. His mother, Kelly Freudenberg, said her son volunteered to join the Army last year with the thought that he could help relieve the soldiers already in Iraq.
"He said, `I want to go over there so the ones over there can come home and be with their families,'-" recalled Freudenberg, who spoke from her Forest Lake home on Tuesday night. "He wanted to support our country."
Arcand was the 26th Minnesotan to die in the Iraq war.
Freudenberg said she doesn't know whether the vehicle was speeding to avoid being hit by insurgents or the driver lost control because of the road conditions. The family was not told if Arcand was the driver. Freudenberg said her best guess is that the combination of speed, inexperience with the driving conditions and darkness, as it was evening when the accident occurred, contributed to the crash.
Arcand was in his third month of duty in Iraq with the 360th Transportation Company as a licensed truck driver. He was in a M915A1 tractor, a military semi, pulling a 7,500-gallon tanker at the time of the crash.
He graduated from Forest Lake High School in 2001, taking a maintenance job at a downtown St. Paul bank after his schooling. "He had a deep heart," said his mother. "He cared about people. The reason he joined the Army was he believed in what we were doing over there."
A last conversation
Arcand told his mother that the locals welcomed him. "They were happy that our troops are there. They're afraid for when our troops leave," she said.
The mother and son last spoke on Saturday, when Elden described his view of the insurgency.
"Actually, he said they're pretty bad shots. You can see the mortar coming in the air, but they're not even close to where anybody is," she said. "He didn't feel as though he was in danger."
Freudenberg, who supports the war, said she understands the grief, if not the politics, of mothers who have openly criticized the war, such as Cindy Sheehan, the grieving military mother and polarizing figure at the center of a protest at the Crawford, Texas, ranch of President Bush.
"I still believe their sons believed in what they were doing," Freudenberg said. "Otherwise they died in vain, but at the same time I know that these mothers are hurting. I still support the war. I support President Bush. I hope we don't pull out our troops too soon because the Iraqi people need us.
"It breaks my heart that [protest mothers] are hurting so much that they feel the need to protest something that is so important to so many people. But that's pain. Can I be mad about that?
They're not bad people. They're just hurting.
"I am proud to be Elden's mother. I am so proud, and I wouldn't take one day back," she said.
Arcand's father, David, of White Bear Lake, declined to comment Tuesday night.
In addition to his parents, Arcand is survived by his stepfather, Christopher, stepbrothers Michael and Dan, and a stepsister, Taylor, all of Forest Lake. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Matt McKinney is at firstname.lastname@example.org.