Soldier from Vadnais Heights severely injured in Iraq

McDonough and Kriesel
Sgt. John Kriesel, 25, of Vadnais Heights, right, is shown with Bryan McDonough of Maplewood on patrol near the Euphrates River in this undated photo on McDonough's Web site. McDonough was killed in a blast on Saturday, which seriously injured Kriesel.

(AP) A Minnesota National Guard soldier lost both of his legs in the same bomb blast in Iraq that killed two of his best friends, his family told KSTP-TV on Tuesday.

Sgt. John Kriesel, 25, of Vadnais Heights, was hospitalized in stable but critical condition in Germany. His parents told the station Kriesel was still unconscious and unaware that his friends died or of the severity of his injuries. His arms were both in casts and he has tubes in his lungs, they said.

His family told KSTP-TV that one big reason Kriesel re-enlisted in the National Guard was that he didn't want to leave his friends behind.

"Wherever his country told him to go, that's where he went," said his father, John Kriesel. "He believed in everything and he was a good soldier."

Kriesel was wounded and Spc. Bryan McDonough, 22, of Maplewood, and Spc. Corey Rystad, 20, of Red Lake Falls, were killed when a bomb exploded near the Humvee they were riding in Saturday while on patrol near Fallujah. The National Guard said another soldier was injured, but he was expected to return to duty.

Kriesel was married in October 2005 just before shipping out to Iraq. His wife was already in Germany and wanted to be with him when he got the news of his friends' deaths, while his father was about to head there, his family said.

The sergeant and his wife traveled to Florida with McDonough and Rystad shortly before they shipped out to Iraq, the family said.

His mother, Diane Kriesel, said her "heart dropped" when she got the phone call this weekend.

"Someone called directly from Iraq, I think it was a captain, he said he was there when John was brought in and that they had taken what was left of his legs," she said.

His father said that as soon as he saw his wife crying, he knew something was terribly wrong, and he went weak in the knees.

"At least he's alive," he said. "That's all I care about."