Staff Sgt. Robert Traxel in a photo provided by his family.
By Casey Nolen
St. Louis County (KSDK) - He survived tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Monday a Missouri National Guard soldier died on a humanitarian mission to Guatemala.
Staff Sgt. Robert Traxel filed video news reports for the National Guard. Less than three days after he posted his last story online, his family says he was killed in a helicopter accident.
Details have not been solidified, but Traxel's aunt says the family was told the 34-year-old was videotaping a takeoff when the chopper clipped a tree caused a branch to hit him in the head.
The Missouri National Guard released the following statement:
"Initial 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."
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.
It was in the Army where his family says he started reporting, filing stories from the front lines.
His family thought his latest mission would be safer - a medical readiness mission with the Missouri National Guard in Guatemala.
"He said, 'Oh, it's nothing to worry about.' But one never knows," says his aunt Suzanne Corbett who said Tuesday all of Traxel's different professions pointed to the core of his character.
"Service to country and being proud to serve, and that's what Robert was all about," Corbett says.
Traxel leaves behind a wife and four children.