Missouri National Guard Staff Sgt. Robert J. Traxel, 34, of Union, died Monday, while performing his annual training duties in support of Beyond the Horizon Guatemala exercise.
Reports indicate Traxel died of injuries after he was struck in the head by a tree limb that fell due to wind generated by helicopter rotor blades during a training exercise.
Traxel was providing public affairs support at the exercise. He filed his final report from Guatemala June 29.
The Missouri National Guard said the incident is under investigation.
Before signing up with the Missouri National Guard, Traxel’s family says he enlisted with the Marines right out of Oakville High School in south St. Louis County.
After that, he worked as a police officer in Florissant and other departments before enlisting with the Army, serving a tour in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“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 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 on Wednesday. “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.”
Traxel was a decorated soldier and served in Afghanistan in 2008 and in Iraq in 2011 with the Army. His decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, second award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Army Service Ribbon, and the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Traxel leaves behind a wife and four children.