Soldiers welcomed home as heroes |

Soldiers welcomed home as heroes

By Ryan Graff

Post Independent Staff Writer

GLENWOOD SPRINGS- The Sigmon family didn’t mind being awake at 1 a.m. on Monday. Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Sigmon was finally home.

Sigmon, 28, of Rifle, had been serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom for the past six months as an electronics technician in Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74.

As part of a smaller group of soldiers, known as the Seabees, he worked on everything from rapid runway repair and construction of P.O.W. camps to providing humanitarian aid.

Upon returning to the United States he learned that he had been elected, with fellow service people, a grand marshal of Saturday’s Strawberry Days parade.

Sigmon learned many lessons during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“No. 1, you appreciate green grass and water,” said Sigmon.

The living conditions were harsh, with blowing sand, rain, and temperatures reaching as high as 140 degrees in summer months.

“It made me appreciate the United States a lot more,” he said, after living in the desert climate.

Although Sigmon is being honored in the Saturday parade, he is quick to point to the efforts of his fellow service people and the people at home.

“They deserve so much gratitude from us,” said Sigmon about the people who supported the troops at home.

“My mom has made me really proud,” he said. “She has been so strong for so many people.”

He is the son of Carl Sigmon of Rifle and Barbara and Jerald Lowery of Rifle.

He was also shocked that his bank, Alpine Bank in Rifle, “a whole half of a world away, would take time out of their day” to send a care package to him.

Though he said he wasn’t a hero, and didn’t earn any medals or stars, he is humbled and moved to be honored in the parade.

“They’re all going to be cheering,” Sigmon says of the parade crowd. “Words can’t express what it means.”

Adding to the magnitude of the Strawberry Days parade for Sigmon is that it will be his 29th birthday.

Despite contending that he wasn’t a hero, he said, “I’d do it all over again to make sure that we’re safe.”

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 535

By Ryan Graff

Post Independent Staff Writer

GLENWOOD SPRINGS- “All I remember was waking up in the middle of the night … It was Patriot missiles going off, SCUDs were coming toward our base.”

This is part of what Lance Cpl. Brian Chee of Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 experienced near the Iraqi border as he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Chee, 24, who returned to his parents’ home in Glenwood Springs earlier this month, is among the service people from Operation Iraqi Freedom to be honored as grand marshals in Saturday’s Strawberry Days Parade. His parents are H.J. and Carmen Chee of Glenwood Springs.

“It’s kind of an honor you know,” he said.

“All I did was do what I was told,” he said of his time in Iraq. “They made me a grand marshal, that’s cool.”

Chee has served in the Marines for just over a year, and has already experienced things many Marines never see.

In the opening days of the war he remembers the calls of, “Gas, gas, gas,” making their way from tent to tent as Iraqi missiles exploded above Al Jaber airbase in Kuwait.

“I remember seeing SCUDs blowing up overhead,” he said. “It was like the Fourth of July.”

He also remembers crossing the border into an Iraqi town and seeing dead Iraqis, burning Iraqi flags, and Iraqi citizens greeting U.S. soldiers with a wave.

“They just seemed so happy to see you,” he said, noting that some occasionally used the middle finger.

He lived in the desert with scorpions with names like Death Stalker, and camel spiders whose venom “just starts eating away at your flesh,” and dust the consistency of baby powder that would blow furiously almost every day.

He went 12 days without a shower, but didn’t “notice the smell because all the guys smell the same.”

Through it all, Chee remained positive by going to church and praying at night. He also received words of encouragement in letters from family and friends back home.

“If you can make it though this, everything else will be a breeze,” his dad told him in a phone call.

He received a letter from his neighbors’ kindergarten class. The kids wrote and told him, “Don’t die,” and “Don’t shoot any pets.”

Chee also received a letter of appreciation from 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction.

“It makes you feel good, knowing you did something worthwhile,” said Chee.

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 535

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