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Accident in 1986 changed everything for Avon veteran

    On Sept. 11, 1986, a 23-year-old Bob Braun was in basic training in Fort Benning, Ga., when his life was changed forever. He was riding in the back of a 2 ton truck when it suddenly overturned. Bob ended up with a shattered femur, dislocated hip, three badly fractured fingers and a broken nose, plus numerous lacerations. He would spend the next eight months recovering in the hospital. Since then, Bob has had to have a hip replaced, and over time, he developed fibromyalgia; a condition related to physical trauma that leads to experiencing chronic pain and fatigue. Bob, who had been honorably discharged as a service connected disabled veteran, now had to deal with an often misunderstood condition that can be disabling, but has no external signs. “I look normal,” Bob says, “but I don’t feel normal.” Now a few months from his 50th birthday, Bob says, “I still feel like I’m 23, with a lot of scar tissue and a lot more pain.” Still, last month at St. Cloud State University at the Van Nelson Alumni Open, Bob lined up at the starting line of the 60 yard dash against athletes 30 years younger than himself; not because he thought he could win, but to push his own limits, to compete even if he would pay for it later on. “It may feel good on a good day when it’s not hurting so bad,” Bob says, “but I know if I go pheasant hunting for part of a day, I know I’m going to pay for three.” Keeping busy helps Bob keep his mind off of the pain. Also, Bob, as a former competitive power lifter and football player, finds that keeping fit helps him deal with it. Most importantly, providing service to others helps both body and spirit. Bob has been active in his church, Seven Dolors in Albany, served as a Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus, been a football coach at Discovery middle school, and still serves on the Stearns County Human Services Advisory Board as a vice-chair, among other civic activities. In addition, he worked, both independently and for Catholic Charities, in intensive in-home family therapy in conjunction with community corrections, child protection and social services. However, as his fibromyalgia worsened, the pain finally became too overwhelming for him to continue as a full-time therapist. “I was unable to do the work I loved,” Bob recalls sadly. Still, Bob hopes to be able to return to his work in time. Joel Baumgarten, a long-time friend who is now athletic director at Rocori High School, has been a major support in Bob’s life. In fact it was through Joel that Bob met his wife Pam. Joel was working part time as a bartenderand called Bob to come visit him. There Bob became enamored of a young waitress, and two years later, in 1990, Bob and Pam were married. Joel also convinced Bob to go to college. Bob was working construction after high school while Joel had gone on to St. Cloud State. Joel kept extolling the attributes of the girls at SCSU saying “come up to college, just for a quarter, because the girls are incredible,’” Bob smiles, “So I came to college for women, and I stayed for an education.” Bob decided to leave SCSU to join the U.S. Army Reserves, which lead him to Fort Benning and his accident and subsequent hospital stay. Later, after recovering from his accident, Bob would return to school to finish his degree in criminal justice. He is presently working on his master’s degree. Bob and Pam have now been married nearly 23 years and have two children, Alyssa, 18, and Ethan, 15. “For me,” Bob says, “being a husband and a father are the two most important things I’ve ever done.” Looking forward, Bob continues to battle this condition that so far has no cure. He tries to honor his parents’ memory, support his children, serve his faith, and help in his community. “If the pain isn’t bad then it’s a better day; if the pain’s hard it’s a worse day,” Bob states, “but even on my worst day I realize I’m very blessed.”

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