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Area grad injured in explosion in Iraq

January 08, 2006|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

MIDDLETOWN, MD.

The bomb that exploded near Maryland National Guard Sgt. Randy Divel's vehicle in Iraq on Christmas Eve burned about 40 percent of his body, mostly on his right side, his sister, Dianna Divel Mehaffie, said Saturday.

Divel, a 1987 graduate of Clear Spring High School, had his first skin graft operation on Dec. 28 and is scheduled to have his second on Monday.

Mehaffie said her brother - who is recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio - was at first listed in critical condition, but has greatly improved.

Divel, 36, of Middletown, was one of three Maryland National Guard soldiers injured when the bomb - an improvised explosive device - detonated near them. Mehaffie said the soldiers had delivered supplies to Baghdad and were traveling away from the city when the explosion happened.

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Divel's father, Leroy Divel, got the phone call about his son's injury on Christmas Eve, after other relatives had left, Mehaffie said.

Divel, who works for Volvo Powertrain, was attached to the 243rd Engineer Company, Mehaffie said.

He was sent to Iraq in August 2005 and was scheduled to come home a year later - then retire in November, after 20 years, she said.

Mehaffie said Divel enlisted in the Maryland National Guard in 1986, during his senior year in high school.

When Divel was injured, he was taken to a field hospital, then flown to a hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, then moved to San Antonio.

Divel's parents, Leroy and Ruthie Divel, flew to San Antonio to be with him on Dec. 29.

Dianna, 37; brother Rusty Divel, 39; and a friend went to San Antonio on Thursday.

Mehaffie spoke by phone Saturday from a San Antonio hotel. With each question, she turned to her family; they came up with answers as a group.

Divel has a wife, Kim, and two children from before he married her - Christopher, 15, and Elizabeth, 11.

On New Year's Day, President Bush visited the hospital and spent about five minutes with Divel in his private room. Mehaffie said they talked about hunting on the Hancock farm where the Divel siblings grew up.

The president offered sympathy for his injury and thanked him for his bravery, she said.

Divel received a Presidential coin and is scheduled to get a Purple Heart, his sister said.

Mehaffie said Saturday was the first time since the explosion that Divel walked almost on his own.

"He's still pretty stiff, but he's determined," Mehaffie said.

The family doesn't know when Divel will come home. It could be weeks, months or a year, Mehaffie said.

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