Penn Valley soldier takes steps in recovery |

Penn Valley soldier takes steps in recovery

Brandon Walden

A Penn Valley soldier wounded in a July surprise attack in Afghanistan took major steps — both literal and figurative — toward recovery Wednesday.

U.S. Army Spc. Brandon Walden, a 20-year-old Penn Valley native, walked 75 feet with the aid of a walker in the Center for the Intrepid, a military hospital based in San Antonio, said Laura Cummins, his mother.

“He has range of motion in his leg, which is the first time that has happened in the last nine weeks,” Cummins said.

Nevertheless, Walden still has difficulties ahead, as he continues to battle ailments both physical and psychological.

The hip, where he was shot on July 3 by an Afghan man wearing an Afghan National Security Forces uniform, is still infected, and some of the critical bone and cartilage in the hip has deteriorated as a result, Cummins said. Walden persistently attends daily physical therapy sessions aimed at strengthening the joint.

“He wants to be more ambulatory, but he knows not to push himself,” Cummins said.

Walden’s spirits remain high, but he continues to battle mental repercussions of the attack.

“He sees the face of the shooter a lot,” Cummins said. “It’s hard, but we are working through that. Brandon is really good about talking through it.”

Cummins praised the rehabilitation center, saying Walden’s psychiatrist is “amazing.”

Cummins said that she is “holding up.”

“I miss my other kids terribly,” she said. “But I can’t leave here; Brandon is on so many medications that he requires my constant care.”

Cummins is in the process of finalizing plans to bring her other children out to Texas so they can stay for a period of three weeks with their brother.

“I know Brandon wants his siblings to be here,” she said.

Donations that have poured in from segments of western Nevada County have allowed Cummins to maintain a constant vigil at her son’s bedside and to rent a car that has been indispensable in transporting Walden around the sprawling military base to meet his
various physical therapy appointments.

“We couldn’t do this without the support of the community,” Cummins said.

Back in Penn Valley, neighbors have volunteered their time to cook for Cummins’ three other children, transport them to various extracurricular activities and look after the house.

“I don’t even want to think about where we’d be without the community,” she said.

The incident

Walden and his company were attacked in July during a routine convoy.

The young soldier was scheduled to end his tour two days after the attack transpired.

After the shooter, who was wearing the uniform of an ally, sprayed automatic gunfire
into the squad, Walden and his fellow soldiers dove under their squad vehicle for cover, Cummins said.

Walden saw the face of the shooter before ducking for cover, an image he continues to try to shake from his memory, Cummins said.

While underneath the
truck, Walden could only watch
as the shooter slowly approached the vehicle.

“They could see the feet of the shooter walking toward them,” Cummins said. “My boy was just praying, ‘Keep me alive. Keep me alive.’”

Abruptly, the shooter dropped the gun and hurriedly walked off in the opposite direction, Cummins said. “It was God at work,” she said. “It was a tremendous miracle.”

Community support

Since the incident transpired, western Nevada County has displayed its appreciation for military service and its generosity, donating time and money to help the family in its time of crisis.

On Sept. 15, the Nevada City Elks Club will hold a benefit spaghetti dinner, said Penn Valley resident Louis Cappello, who is helping to organize the event.

“With Laura not working, funds are seriously short,” Cappello wrote in an email to The Union.

“A six-week-long food drive has provided the family with enough non-perishable food to last through the end of the year.

“Efforts are under way to obtain fresh food and dairy products on a continuing basis. The recent spaghetti dinner put on by Penn Valley Lions volunteers at the Tack Room and the Wells Fargo donation fund have helped, but more support is needed.”

The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children, Cappello said. Chaplain Dennis Fruzza of the local American Legion chapter and his wife will escort and sit with Brandon’s brothers and sisters at the family table and deliver an opening prayer and the latest update on Brandon’s condition.

Those not able to attend the event can make a donation to: Brandon Walden Donation Fund, c/o Wells Fargo Bank, 17446 Penn Valley Drive, Penn Valley, CA 95946.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

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