I met Sgt. Gil Frazier during the war in Afghanistan. I was an embedded journalist and he was a Marine. One of the reasons I am alive today is probably, in part, thanks to him. It was an unspoken rule that the Marines would give their lives to protect journalists. It was a rule that sometimes made reporters unwelcome as we represented another hassle in the chaos of battle. I could not blame them for this and did my best to take care of myself, but that in itself was a joke – without training or a weapon I was dead weight. But Gil took this extra baggage in stride and welcomed me into battle and shared with me many truths about the complications of the mission.
Just a few months after I left Afghanistan on Dec. 3, 2010 Frazier was in a firefight with enemy forces where Lance Cpl. Lucas C. Scott, 20, of Peebles, OH was shot after hours of fighting. When Scott could not breath, Frazier, according to a military website, performed an emergency tracheotomy while simultaneously directing his squad and air assets. With a casualty and almost out of ammo, Frazier pushed his squad to move the enemy out of the area. Unfortunately, Scott did not survive.
For his actions that day, Gil was awarded the Vanguard Award from the Non-Commissioned Officer Association. He was also awarded both the Bronze Star and Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device.
I wanted to reach out to Gil to tell him I was sorry and that I was thinking of him. He would have taken a bullet for me without a second thought, but I could not send my condolences because I could not face the past. I wanted to move forward not backwards.
So when I heard the news that he had passed away from unknown reasons two weeks ago, I felt that sting of regret. My message would probably not have saved him or reversed his fate, but I would have found solace in the action.
As Veterans Day is this week and another young man dies in the aftermath of the longest war fought in our nation’s history, I ask you to reach out to the service members you know. Take a minute to make a phone call or send an email because you never know when it may be too late. If you know of any veterans in our community who could use help, direct them to the American Legion or the Veterans Advisory board members.
The Veterans Advisory Board provides emergency services to veterans in need, their children, widows widowers and/ or orphans. In 2007, the advisory board was formed and became in charge of distributing money from the Veterans Assistance Fund, which comes from San Juan County property taxes.
For more info, visit www.co.sanjuan.wa.us/Committees/Veterans/Default.aspx.