- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Veterans Day passed in the Cedergren family much the same as every other day: crammed in a hotel room, chasing down leads in hopes of finding a more suitable home, trying to get by on too little.

For the family of David Cedergren, a Navy medic who died in Iraq in 2004, life since his death has been a struggle.

His mother, Deb Cedergren, sister Kristy Hadammek, her husband Andrew and their three children are all living in a St. Cloud hotel. Although Kristy and Andy Hadammek both work full time, they’ve been unable to find a large enough place to live due to past rental history problems.

“They both work so hard, and their paychecks are going for a hotel,” Deb Cedergren told the St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/1MntboC ). She wants her grandchildren to grow up in a house where they have room to play, and not have to move every few weeks.

Deb Cedergren lives with her daughter and son-in-law so she can care for their children while they’re at work. She has limited income from Social Security.

The family had to move out of their last rental home at the end of September because the owner wanted to sell. They thought they’d found a new place, but after putting down a deposit, they learned they’d been scammed.

Now the family is sharing a room at the Americana Inn, hoping for a break in their streak of bad luck.

Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Cedergren was just a few weeks away from coming home on Sept. 11, 2004, when he was found unconscious in an outdoor shower stall at Camp Iskandariyah. He was taken to a nearby military medical facility, where he was pronounced dead.

Initially, family members were told he died of natural causes. Eventually, the Navy launched an investigation into his death, and the cause of death was changed to accidental due to electrocution.

David Cedergren was among several U.S. service members who died by electrocution in Iraq. Improperly installed or maintained electrical devices were blamed in some of the deaths.

The circumstances of David Cedergren’s death have made it more difficult for his family to accept.

“We went through hell because we were lied to by the government,” Deb Cedergren said. “Every time we were told something, it was like we relived it.”

David Cedergren grew up in Zimmerman and attended school in Elk River. He enlisted in the Navy in 2000.

He was the kind of person who would share his care packages with fellow soldiers who didn’t receive any. He had “a smile like you wouldn’t believe,” his mother said.

“When I think of David, I think of his smiles,” she said.

Questions about David Cedergren’s death still plague his mother. Why didn’t anyone warn him about shocks other service members had received in the showers? Why did it take so long for the military to act? She keeps a box of papers and photographs from the investigation into David’s death.

“I don’t think I’ll ever open that box,” she said.

Deb Cedergren struggles with post-traumatic stress and memory loss. She has trouble visiting her son’s grave at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, and can’t bear the sound of a 21-gun salute.

And although she has attended events and tributes in honor of fallen veterans, she sometimes feels Gold Star families are forgotten.

There have been organizations that have stepped up to help the Cedergren family, including the Central Minnesota Warrior to Citizen Initiative, the local branch of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon that includes nine area cities. Chairwoman Anita Harris Hering said her group has given the family some gift cards to help with diapers and other expenses.

“It’s such a loving and devoted family,” Hering said. “It’s one of those families that just keeps hitting a brick wall.”

The Cedergrens aren’t the only veteran family struggling to make ends meet, Hering said. Central Minnesota Warrior to Citizen, which officially formed in 2010, helps about five to seven families a week with various needs.

Deb Cedergren said she’s grateful for the assistance.

“It’s hard for me to ask for help,” she said.

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Information from: St. Cloud Times, https://www.sctimes.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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