BRANDEN STACKENWALT (ARMY)

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Specialist Branden Stackenwalt of Rapid City was sent to Iraq in February 2009 with the US Army’s 4th Engineer Battalion in Fort Carson, Colorado. His unit was sent to Afghanistan in May. Stackenwalt and three other soldiers were riding in an armored vehicle on September 20 driving from one forward area of operation to another in enemy-thick southern Afghanistan.  RCJ photo above shows Branden at 9/11/11 commemoration event in Rapid City.

He was monitoring a geo-cam, a camera that scans the area for trouble. “That’s when we got hit,” he said. He doesn’t remember the explosion itself, but recalls that his Kevlar vest was over his head.The darkness was intense, along with the pungent smell of gasoline and oil. Worse yet were the screams for help from the other soldiers in his vehicle. He returned to Rapid City in May 2010 after several months of hospitalization for spinal injuries and broken bones.  On Sundays, you'll find him attending St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran church.