Father counsels military families after son's death

September 7, 2011 8:26:58 AM PDT
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks inspired service and sacrifice by many Americans, but none more than men and women in the armed forces and their families.

In the decade since the attacks, 306 men and women from Illinois have died in combat or while supporting military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the U.S. State Department of Veterans Affairs.

Only a handful of states have sacrificed more troops than Illinois. Families in Wisconsin and Indiana have also bared the burden of losing sons and daughters on September Eleventh and the 3,652 days since then.

Staff Sergeant Jacob Frazier was so moved by Sept. 11 that he joined the military full-time. His first overseas stop was Afghanistan. His dad, Jim Frazier, still remembers their final face-to-face conversation in the family's St. Charles driveway.

"About the third to last sentence he said to me was, 'I'm going to go hunt down the guys responsible for murdering 3,000 of our citizens on our land," Jim said.

Frazier worked with special forces soldiers, calling-in air strikes on high value targets in Afghanistan.

"Being a youthful 24 year old he's like, 'We're going to bump into Osama bin Laden and we're going to catch him.' That was their theory," Jim said.

The Taliban had a different plan. They ambushed the Americans' convoy as they left a lunch with tribal elders. On March 29, 2003, Frazier became the first Illinois service member killed in combat in Afghanistan.

"I think your spirit lives in our hearts. You don't live here. You live in our hearts," Jim said.

There are 19 American service men and women killed in action since September 11, 2001, buried at this cemetery alone."

But there are more. So many more. Wars launched since 9/11 have claimed the lives of 24 men and women from northwest Indiana; Nine from southeastern Wisconsin; and 149 from the Chicago-area.

Staff Sergeant Frazier is buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill. "As I stand here and look at their names: The Sutter family. Adam Thomas. Shawn Pahnke. I know all the families,'" Jim said.

Jim knows them because his son's death changed the course of his life. It claimed his marriage, but cemented a calling: Mr. Frazier quit his job in the corporate world and now works full-time counseling families whose loved ones have been killed or injured in the wars.

"I thought I can't do anything for Jake except honor his memory, but I sure as hell can do something for his buddies and the families of the fallen and that's kind of what I've been doing ever since," Jim said.

"Our lives are never going to be the same, but neither is yours. Don't anybody think their life will be like it was before 9/11, I don't care who you are," Jim said.

Three thousand Illinois National Guardsman served in Afghanistan and Iraq last year. Today it's down to 475, but many more full time military members continue to serve there.


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