ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A large crowd of paratroopers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Airborne Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska were joined by family members of SSG David Thomas Brabander and SPC Gabriel David Conde, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. On Thursday at JBER, outside the 4-25 Headquarters a stone memorial was placed in their honor.
Both of these soldiers were deployed in September 2017 in Support of Operation Freedom Sentinel.
SSG Brabander was only 24 when he died. He was a squad leader in the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment. He lost his life in a vehicle rollover accident in Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan in December of 2017.
SPC Conde was even younger at 22, also an airborne infantryman in the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment. On April 30th, 2018 he was killed by small arms fire in Tagab District, Afghanistan.
Among the civilians in attendance was SSG Brabander’s grandmother, Rena Hite. Hite said she played a major role in raising him after his mother died at a young age.
“He was funny, he was opinionated, but most teenagers are. But he grew to be a very fine young man,” she said, “It’s the world’s loss. My grandson was a very special young man and I think he would have gone on to do great things for his country.”
There were still plenty of people in the 4-25 that remembered these soldiers as well. Captain Dylan Wendt was SPC Conde’s platoon leader.
“I was his platoon leader but he was also a good friend,” said Capt. Wendt, “He was without a doubt one of the best soldiers I ever served with. If I could have more soldiers like Gabriel Conde the world would be much better.”
Sgt. Trenton Beachy had met both of them, but he and SSG Brabander had a tight bond he said. Brabander was Beachy’s first squad leader, and now Beachy is a squad leader.
“First meeting him, definitely scared of him. But once you got to know him: huge jokester,” he said, “I would like to go back and ask him questions. You know, how can I be better as a leader. But all I can do now is remember what he did and try to match him I guess.”
There were plenty more stories from people like Beachy and Wendt. People in the company had no trouble remembering all the good times with Brabander and Conde.
In the end, the people who attended the ceremony remembered these two as dedicated soldiers, who joined the Army for all the right reasons. They held a high standing with the people they left behind, and now the soldiers still there have a stone memorial with their names etched inside to always remember them by.
That’s not all there is however. In three locations on base, there are murals the paratroopers call ‘The G-Men.’ These are giant paintings of a paratrooper done by Conde. Wendt said he was a little bit different from the rest of the platoon in that he seemed a little more ‘cultured and worldly.’
Wendt said he would often find Conde filling out a journal or doodling. For him, the murals on base are a more personal way to remember him by.
Hite said Brabander was her only grandson. However, she said she had a granddaughter who just had a baby boy, who they named David in his honor.
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