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Corpsman's good works live on

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  • Corpsman's good works live on

    By Marine Sgt. Joe Lindsay
    Task Force Lava Public Affairs

    JALALABAD, Afghanistan - When Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Fralish was killed Feb. 6 during a firefight with insurgents in Laghman Province, in eastern Afghanistan, it was by no means the end of his remarkable story - or his legacy.

    Fralish, of New Kingstown, Pa., is revered by not only his fellow corpsmen and the Marines and Soldiers with whom he served, but also by residents of a tiny village high in the mountains near the forward operating base at Mehtar Lam.

    "The name of John Fralish lives on in the mountains of Afghanistan among the local population," said Army 1st Sgt. David Schneider, a first sergeant of E Company of the 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry of the Michigan Army National Guard. "Just before he died, John risked his life to save the life of a little Afghan girl on the brink of death."

    Fralish was patrolling with A Company of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment - to which he was attached - when he got word from an elderly Afghan man that a little girl was in bad shape a few miles away.

    And with that, Fralish, Schneider, two ANA soldiers and an interpreter left with the old man to find the girl.

    "When John heard that there was a child who needed help, he was going to do everything he could to see to it that she got that help," said Schneider, a native of Dimondale, Mich. "John wanted to help everyone who was hurt. It's just the way he was. Keep in mind we were in hostile territory, and it was the middle of the night, but John wanted to go."

    "The old man led us to this little mud hut in the middle of nowhere up in the mountains," Schneider continued. "There was a small fire going on in the hut, for light and warmth. John went to where the little girl was. She had fallen in the mountains a while back and was missing a chunk of her calf muscle. Her leg was hurt real bad. The cut was six inches long and five inches wide down to the bone. Fabric from an old dress was being used as a bandage, and it was soaked through not with blood, but with puss. Infection had set in, and she probably had no more than a couple of days to live if she would have remained in that state."

    Fralish made sure she didn't remain in that state for long. He cleaned the wound, applied antibiotics and redressed it.

    "Still, that was only going to buy her a couple of more days of life at best. She needed immediate surgery in a hospital," Schneider said. "We were on a combat mission that we had to get back to, but John wasn't just going to sit by and let this girl die."

    Fralish took off his rank insignia and gave it to the old man, along with a note he wrote explaining who he was and what the situation was, so that the girl and her family could be given safe passage to the medical facility at Mehtar Lam.

    "Over the next couple of days, while we were in the field, the girl's family got her to Mehtar Lam on the back of a donkey," Schneider said. "When we returned to the FOB at Mehtar Lam, the girl was there being treated. Her family was overjoyed to see John again, and they rightfully credited him with making this all possible."

    Still, the girl's wound and infection were too serious to be adequately treated at Mehtar Lam, Schneider said. Nothing short of amputation of her lower leg - which could not be performed locally - would save her life.

    "When we heard that, everyone passed the hat around, and we got enough money together so the family could hire a car to take them to the hospital at Bagram Airfield," Schneider said. "It was Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors -- everyone chipping in together.

    "Well, the girl's family showed the note John had written, along with his rank insignia, at every check point, and it got their car through to Bagram where the little girl underwent successful surgery," Schneider said. "She made it, and she's recovering nicely and is alive and well now directly because of John. She has a second chance at life."

    Around the time of the girl's surgery, Fralish was killed in action.

    "That whole village mourned John's death along with us," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Cameron Stewart of Spokane, Wash., a corpsman with the 1/3 Marines. "All those who served with John are deeply affected by his loss. To see Afghan villagers also affected is a true testament to the character and type of person John was."

    The Afghan man who led Fralish to the girl's hut recently visited Mehtar Lam and returned Fralish's rank insignia. Schneider gave it to the 1/3 Marines' commanding officer, Lt. Col. James Bierman, who has since mailed it - with a letter from Schneider - to Fralish's parents in Pennsylvania.

    "It was an honor to pass this on John Fralish's family," Bierman said. "This entire story demonstrates the character and nobility of the young Marines and Sailors serving here in Afghanistan."

    And also, perhaps, demonstrates how one man's character can change the mindset of a community. Since Fralish's death, villagers in the surrounding area have also made it a point to alert authorities to insurgent activity.

    "What used to be an area where the insurgents could blend in and operate in has now turned against them," Schneider said.

    "Not only was a little girl's life saved by John, but more American and Coalition lives can be saved as a result of the insurgents losing their grip on the area, all because of one man's sense of humanity."

    -30-

    060329-M-6775L-002: MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan - Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Fralish poses for a photo in early 2006. Fralish, a corpsman from New Kingstown, Pa., was on patrol with A Company of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, when he was killed in a firefight Feb. 6. Residents of a nearby village remember him for risking his life to treat a little girl who was in grave medical condition. (Photo by Navy Chief Petty Officer Claude English)

    060329-M-6775L-001: MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan -- Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Fralish's rank insignia is pinned to a letter to his family from Army 1st Sgt. David Schneider, who served with Fralish in eastern Afghanistan. Fralish, a corpsman from New Kingstown, Pa., gave his rank insignia to the family of an Afghan girl who required urgent medical care so that the girl and her family could receive safe passage to a Coalition medical facility. After he was killed in a firefight Feb. 6, the insignia was returned. (Photo by Marine Sgt. Joe Lindsay, Task Force Lava Public Affairs)



    060329-M-6775L-003: MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan -- Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Fralish's rank insignia is pinned to a letter to his family from Army 1st Sgt. David Schneider, who served with Fralish in eastern Afghanistan. Fralish, a corpsman from New Kingstown, Pa., gave his rank insignia to the family of an Afghan girl who required urgent medical care so that the girl and her family could receive safe passage to a Coalition medical facility. After he was killed in a firefight Feb. 6, the insignia was returned. (Photo by Marine Sgt. Joe Lindsay, Task Force Lava Public Affairs)



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