ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOX) — A Missouri National Guard Solider has died while on a humanitarian mission to Guatemala.

34-year-old Staff Sgt. Robert J. Traxel died Monday while performing his annual training duties. The National Guard says Traxel was hit in the head by a tree branch that fell because a nearby helicopter was taking off.

Before signing up with the Missouri National Guard, Traxel graduated from Oakville High School in south St. Louis County. He also worked as a police officer in Florissant before enlisting with the Army where he served in Afghanistan in 2008 and in Iraq in 2011.

“The men and women of the Missouri National Guard demonstrate self-sacrifice every day, no matter if they are serving in Missouri or in countries around the world,” Gov. Jay Nixon said. “The family, friends and colleagues of Staff Sgt. Traxel are in our prayers, as we remember this brave Citizen-Soldier who served not only in the Guard, but also during deployments to Iraq and
Afghanistan as both an active duty Soldier and Marine. He answered the call of duty many times, and our state and nation are grateful.”

Traxel was a public affairs broadcast specialist with the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, out of Jefferson City. He joined the unit and the Missouri National Guard on April 19, after over seven years of prior service with the active Army and Marines. He was conducting annual training, providing broadcast journalism support to Beyond the Horizon Guatemala 2012, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army South-conducted joint military and humanitarian exercise.

“Upon joining the Missouri National Guard, SSG Traxel immediately assumed a strong leadership role and we were proud to have him supporting this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general for the Missouri National Guard. “At this time, his Missouri National Guard Family is working to support his Family through this difficult time. And on this Independence Day, it’s important to note the ongoing service and sacrifice of our all-volunteer force and their Families.”


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