Valley Ridge Boulevard will be impassable this afternoon as a funeral procession for a fallen soldier makes its way from Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church in Flower Mound to DFW National Cemetery in Grand Prairie. Lewisville police Capt. Michael Lane said they are planning for up to 1500-2000 vehicles to participate.
The funeral is for U.S. Army Sgt. Stephen Jackel, who died Jan. 3 in his home in Little Elm. He was 38. Jackel joined the military in 2008 and was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, winning a Purple Heart and sharing a Valorous Unit Award.
On Aug. 23, 2011, Jackel and his team were injured when their RG-31 ran over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Jackel was knocked out, and would suffer a brain injury from the blast, in addition to both of his legs needing to be amputated below the knee and several injuries from shrapnel.
When Jackel came to, he realized he and his unit was trapped in the burning vehicle. Using his own severed leg, Jackel beat back the flames around him and cleared a path to get out of the vehicle, then helped the rest of his team escape.
He would be medically retired from the military in 2013. With two prosthetic legs, he continued to skydive, rappel and climb mountains. He is survived by his wife Adrianna and their six children.
At 6 a.m. Jan. 3, Jackel took his own life. According to a 2016 VA study, 20 veterans per day die by their own hands, and they account for 18 percent of all suicides in the U.S. despite making up just over 9 percent of the population. Veterans who are having thoughts of suicide are encouraged to call the Suicide Hotline, which is available around the clock and offers specialized service for veterans, at 1-800-273-8255, by texting 838255 or in an online chat here.
Jackel’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. While times are not set in stone, Lewisville Texans should expect delays on Valley Ridge to last from around noon to 1 p.m.