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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Red Scaffold Family Welcomes Soldier Son
by Jomay Steen, Rapid City Journal staff
credits: Photo by Kristina Barker/Journal staff

Praying Lakota grandmothers credited for safety of Iraqi bomb hunter

It took more than a year to get here, but for the next 18 days Army Spec. Chris Condon, 5th Engineers Battalion, 87th Engineers Company, will savor the sights and sounds of being home in South Dakota.

While he’s here, Condon wants to visit his 8-year-old son, see all of the grandmothers in his extended and expansive Lakota family, and finally eat all of the foods he has missed since joining the service in 2004.

“The reason why he’s here is because his grandmothers pray for him every day,” said his mother, Geraldine Condon.

That support is not lost on the Red Scaffold woman. Her 29-year-old son deals with explosives every day as part of his job in a war zone. Chris and the 21 Bravo Combat Engineers are entrusted to find car bombs and the hidden caches in houses in their sector.

“I like my job,” he said.

Geraldine and Harold Condon arrived in Rapid City late Monday afternoon after digging out their snow drifted yard and driving several hours from the Red Scaffold village in Ziebach County. They brought a welcoming party of Condon’s aunts Stephanie Charging Eagle and Valorie Charging Eagle, cousins Stevanna, Steve and Wetu and sister Kara and her daughter with nephew Kamrom.

“This is the short list. We expect more at a dinner at Eagle Butte,” his mother said.

To her knowledge, he is Red Scaffold’s only current soldier serving overseas.

They’ve been anxiously waiting for Condon, who said he decided to take his leave later in his deployment rather than at the beginning of his service. It was worth the wait, he said.

Condon, a Red Scaffold native of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, began his homeward journey April 5 from Kuwait, arriving at the airport near Berlin, Germany, about 14 hours later. There, he and about 200 other soldiers boarded a transport plane for an overnight trans-Atlantic flight to Dallas, Texas.

“Once we got into Dallas, those 200 soldiers scattered all over the airport looking for flights home,” Condon said.

On standby status, Condon asked for the first flight to Denver that would send him on to Rapid City. The clerk made his ticket a priority—something another passenger took exception to and complained about to a superior.

“She told him that she was going to make sure that I got home,” Condon recalled. It was a small courtesy that touched him, one of many kind gestures that he appreciated once on American soil and as he drew closer to home.

During the trip he worried about the weather, watching daily updates on the snowstorms and flooding in the region.

Actually seeing so much snow in April still surprised him.

“Right now it’s sandstorm season over there,” he said.

Expecting to see their son at about 10:30 p.m. Monday, the family had sat down at a Rapid City restaurant for dinner when Chris called at 4:30. He was home—six hours early. “We paid the check and took off for the airport,” Geraldine Condon said.

Kara Condon was one of the first relatives to arrive at the airport after Chris’ call.

“We were so anxious to see him,” she said.

She had brought along her daughter and their nephew Kamron.

The little boy had been counting the days until Chris got home. Kara pointed out the tall man in the camouflage clothing to Kamron, who replied with a whispered “Holy.”

The next thing she knew, she was hugging her brother.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “He’s finally here.”

As a child and teenager, Condon traveled throughout the United States and Europe as his family competed in Native American drumming, singing and dancing. As many as three generations would camp and dance together over the summer months.

Condon also excelled in school academics and athletics, winning the same scholarships that his big brother Kerwin had earned years earlier.

“We made sure that they traveled and were educated,” his father, Harold Condon, said.

Chris Condon decided to enlist in the military after Kerwin became seriously ill. Kerwin had developed cancer as a child. While it was in remission for years, the eldest son was ineligible to serve in the military.

“He always wanted to be in the military so I did it for him,” Condon said.

Kerwin died three years ago. In February, Condon re-enlisted for another six years.

“A lot of people said I was crazy, but I like what I do,” he said.

After this leave, Condon will return to Iraq. He will come back in July for a short leave before his unit will move on to Afghanistan. After finishing his overseas tour, Condon will return to Fort Hood, Texas, to finish his service.

And then?

“I’ll see when this next six years are up,” he said.

Contact Jomay Steen at 394-8418 or

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