Michael Gene Frey
During the Vietnam War there was no overriding reason to keep close track of names of the men and women who died as a result of military service in the war zone. A decade after the withdrawal of US forces, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was approved for construction. The service branches went back through their records to identify our dead by name.
Inevitably some men who should have been named on the "Wall" were not. Over the years additional names have been inscribed on the Wall - some were men who died after the war as a result of wounds received in the war or from disease or illness, and others were men whose names were overlooked in earlier years.
The Department of Defense approved having his name etched on the Wall during May 2016, along with 7 other names. His name was etched as close to the names as possible of those who died the same day where space was found to add his name. These are the 8 men who were added to the memorial this year:
Part of an Article from St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) in 2000 that gives you an idea of how Michael lived his life.
Michael Frey, paralyzed since a 1969 ambush in Vietnam, now gets by in his own home in Florissant. The disabled veteran says: "I just live what life I've got".
Life is strange.
Or as the line I once saw scrawled on a wall said, "Where's the life we've lost in living?"
So sometimes you die and become a fading memory.
Other times you're spared, but at what price?
Michael G. Frey, 51, lived in his split-level 12-room house in a Florissant subdivision, a town he left 32 years ago, two months after graduating from McCluer High School. The Vietnam War was raging then, and he'd volunteered for the military draft with the idea of getting tuition money from the GI Bill for a two-year course in electronics at Ranken Technical College. He'd done well in high school mathematics.
His decision turned out to be a serious, life-altering choice.
On July 14, 1969, Frey was shot through the neck by an AK-47 in a rice paddy near Chu Lai, in the northern section of what was then South Vietnam. When he was hit, Frey was trying to unjam his machine gun. He was 19. He's been totally paralyzed for 31 years. The burst of gunfire -- it lasted only seconds -- took place in the I Corps area by the South China Sea. The Army's AMERICAL Division and the 1st Marine divisions were in this region.
And it was here that the infamous My Lai massacre took place, the slaughter of Vietnamese civilians by soldiers of the Americal. It became an international scandal.
Frey's survival came during a period in the late 1960s when reporters spent almost a day each week traveling the area picking up photographs of local servicemen killed in the war. In just one Post-Dispatch news archive envelope, file No. 42, clippings dating from Sept. 5 through Oct. 4, 1969, tell the stories of six area servicemen killed in Vietnam, including Marine Pvt. Donald J. Garvey Jr., 20, a 1967 McCluer High graduate who knew Frey.
Michael Frey was also a friend of the late Jack Buck. Frey kept a framed picture of himself and Buck on the mantel over his fireplace at his home in Florissant. Buck autographed the photo: "One of my very best friends, Mike Frey, Jack Buck."
Frey, who doesn't sleep all that much, heard about Buck's death at 4:30 Wednesday morning the day he died and when Frey turned on his television. "I was kind of shocked. I didn't know he was that bad off. I'm really going to miss him." Buck never made a big deal about his visits to Frey, or his arrangements to have Frey sit with him and other players of the St Louis Cardinals Baseball team.
Buck had known Frey for most of the three decades he's been confined to a wheelchair. Buck was buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery where his friend Michael Frey would also by buried when he passed away in 2014.
August 5, 2010 tribute from Senator Claire McCaskill, Missouri
Mr. President, today I pay tribute to Mr. Michael Frey, a disabled Missouri veteran whose courage, perseverance, and fortitude are remarkable and in keeping with the finest traditions of Missouri and American values: hard work, independence, humbleness, selfless sacrifice, and more.
As a young 19-year old soldier in Vietnam, Mr. Frey served as a squad leader in Alpha Company 3/21 of the 19th Infantry Brigade. On July 14, 1969, Mr. Frey and the members of Alpha Company were ambushed near the Chu Lai base camp. His spinal cord was shattered by enemy fire, and the injuries rendered him paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator for assistance in breathing.
Given the extent of his injuries, many doctors would have given Mr. Frey a short time to live, but this special Missourian was about to prove that his case and that he himself was special.
Mr. Frey returned to the United States and began receiving full-time care through St. Louis-area Veterans Administration, VA, hospitals, where he gained the respect and admiration of the hospital staff for his resilience, problem-solving approach, and positivity even as he faced almost unthinkable limitations.
On December 7, 1984, 15 years after his spine was shattered in Vietnam, more than double the time individuals with his type of injuries are projected to survive, Mr. Frey moved out of the Spinal Cord Injury facility at Jefferson Barracks Veterans Hospital and into his own home--a remarkable accomplishment for a person with complete tetraplegia.
Since then, Mr. Frey has lived on his own for over 25 years, and he is still going strong. Today he actively manages his daily care with the help of a team of care specialists, and he continues to take full charge of his health through preventative care and regular collaboration with VA doctors.
He has the benefit of a strong social network and a self-confidence that has allowed him to bounce back from setbacks. He also remains an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and regularly attends games. In fact, Mr. Frey developed a special friendship with the late, great St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, who befriended Mr. Frey in the 1970s and encouraged him along the way.
Having survived over 40 years since his injury, Mr. Frey is one of the longest living tetraplegics in the VA system. I honor him today for his wonderful example in coping with his disability. His spirited approach to life is emblematic of the courage, honor, and strength of this country's veterans who fight for our freedom. His partnership with the many great professionals in the VA healthcare system in St. Louis, who at once serve him and revere him, is uplifting and embodies how our VA system can work best.
I join the people of Missouri, and all Americans, in saluting Mr. Frey's courage and to humbly thank him for all that he has done, and for all that he endured, for this country. Mr. Michael Frey is a true American hero.
From a local area newspaper at the time of his death: Surrounded by his family and friends, Michael Gene Frey, beloved son of Florence Frey and late Norman Frey,Sr. succumbed to the injuries of the war in Vietnam. He was the dear brother and brother-in-law of Norman (Nora) Frey, Jr., Carol (Bill) Sims, Donna Klosterhoff, Laura (Dennis) Emory and the late Sandra Frey; uncle and friend to many.
He was buried in a private ceremony at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, (St. Louis County), Missouri.
- - - The Virtual Wall, June 19, 2016
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