I have had the great pleasure of meeting many people over the years through events and interviews, however some stand out more than others. This gentleman is no exception. Retired Army Colonel Ronald Fraser served God and his country for 37 years with honor.
His military career began in his home town of Millinocket, Maine when he joined the Maine National Guard with Company I, 103 Infantry in 1940 after graduating from Sterns High School. One of his first missions was called upon when a young man went missing on Mount Katahdin. Here in the Katahdin Region, we all know who the lost boy was as he has a long standing relationship and connection in our communities, Donn Fendler. During the days Fendler was missing, Fraser climbed Mount Katahdin seven times searching for the boy who finally reappeared on the East Branch of the Penobscot across from Lunkasoo Camps.
Along with 110 young men from Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway, Fraser went on active duty February 24, 1941. Their journey began at Camp Blanding, Florida. Shortly after they arrived in Florida, they were shipped out for two years to the South Pacific. Fraser, who is now 91 years old stated, “To the best of my memory, there is only three of
the original unit still alive today, many older than I”.
During WWII, he was stationed in Africa, Sicily and Italy. He fought in the battle of Casino in Italy recalling, “There were 1,200 men and 58 officers in the Battalion, three and a half months later, there was only 164 men and four officers left.” That is a very somber fact of the sacrifices of war.
When 1947 rolled around he remained in the Army Of Occupation in Italy and Slovenia until the summer of 1950 when he was stationed at Fort Devans, Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter he was shipped to the Korean War for 15 months with the seventh Infantry, Third Division. He remembered it was very cold and they did not have the clothing that was needed, nor antifreeze for the vehicles. Their mission was to go to the Yalu River to help the Marines who were surrounded.
In November 1951, he returned to the States. “I was assigned to the State of New Hampshire as an adviser to the reserve units in Portsmouth. During that time I went to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.” From there, he went to Naples, Italy as a Staff Officer working with the Italian, Greek and Turkish forces.
Later he became the coordinator of activities in Munich, Germany.
He returned to the States in 1959 assigned as Staff Officer with the Inspector General at the Pentagon. In 1963 he was selected to go to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After 14 months of schooling he achieved a Masters in International Relations at George Washington University.
He was sent to Pan Mon Jon, Korea to the Military Armistice Commission as Assistant Secretary of the Commission before coming back to Fort Polk, Louisiana where he trained recruits for two years. From that point, he was sent to Hawaii as Head of International Treaties in CINCPAC, working under Admiral John McCain (Senator McCain’s father). After this he was sent to Bangkok, Thailand as head of planning for the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. He then returned to Hawaii as Head of International Treaties for two more years. During this time, he made 19 trips to Vietnam during the war.
He retired from the Military in 1974, and traveled throughout the United States, including Alaska, with his wife, Geraldine Boynton Fraser. Ronald and Geraldine were high school sweethearts, together for 70 years, until her passing three years ago. They had a son, Michael Fraser who blessed them with one grandchild, currently living in Alaska.
I asked Ronald, if he could pass on anything to the youth of today, what that would be. With heartfelt emotion he said, “I would hope they could look forward to a peaceful world”.
I interviewed Ronald on the Forth of July as he was honored by his hometown as Grand Master of the parade, riding in an eighteen wheeler, driven by his nephew Dick Fraser, who drives for Wal-Mart. On the big rig boldly displaying the American Flag, is the statement, “Honoring our Nation’s Military, Wreaths across America”. I truly felt that it could not have been more fitting on such a day when we should all stop and think what it is all is about. It is about freedom and the sacrifices that have been made by the brave men and women of our country. May we always be reminded; the price of freedom is not free.