Inside the Gates: Alaska Brigade honors 2 fallen soldiers
Two soldiers killed in a recent combat deployment to Afghanistan have left behind lasting memories with the Spartan Airborne Brigade.
In September 2017, 24-year-old Staff Sgt. David Brabander and 22-year-old Spc. Gabriel Conde both deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment as part of Operation Freedom Sentinel.
"Staff Sgt. Brabander was actually my first squad leader. When I first met him I was scared, of course, new to the Army," Sgt. Trenton Beachy said. "Once I got to know him, he really grew on me."
Brabander was born in Anchorage and grew up in the Palmer - Wasilla area.
"He was a typical child, teenager — bratty sometimes, good other times," Brabander's grandmother Rena Hite said. "When he decided to go in the military I wasn't happy about it, but he was kind of a lost guy. Kind of looking for his place."
For Brabander, he finally found where he fit in. His grandmother said when he chose to go into the military, he excelled.
"He taught me a lot of things," Beachy said. "Very knowledgeable about Alaska, about the Army, things that most people didn't know. Overall, a heck of a leader, definitely led. Strong. It's sad that we lost him."
For Gabriel Conde, he found his way to Alaska in 2016 after enrolling in the U.S. Army in 2015 in Loveland, Colorado.
"I was Gabriel's platoon leader whenever he first showed up to Alaska," Capt. Dylan Wendt said. "It was the summer of 2016, about a year before we deployed."
Wendt says Conde was quiet and artistic and kept to himself.
"He liked to draw in his free time. He was just an artistic mind," Wendt said. "He was pretty quiet, but he let his actions speak for himself."
Some of Conde's artwork can be seen outside the battalion headquarters.
"He volunteered to paint the G-man, our unit logo, in front of the battalion headquarters, so as I was going in and out of battalion headquarters I saw him as he was making progress on his work," Wendt said.
While on deployment in December 2017, Brabander was injured in a vehicle rollover and died from the injuries. Just over four months later, on April 30, 2018, Conde was killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan.
"So today we wanted to acknowledge the hard work, the efforts of the brigade during the most recent deployment that we had with Freedom Sentinel," said Public Affairs Officer Capt. Ashley Bain-Sangster. "This was an opportunity to not only talk about the efforts of the brigade with the deployment but to honor two of our fallen soldiers that gave and sacrificed during that deployment."
The soldiers names are forever etched into the monuments at the memorial garden.
"This is about him and the military and they are honoring his service and his time with them," Hite said "And so I'm just proud to be a spectator in all of it. I'm happy for both boys."
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