LESLIE J FROLICH

LESLIE J FROLICH - PFC

  • HOMETOWN:
  • roselle
  • COUNTY:
  • Union
  • DATE OF BIRTH:
  • February 24, 1948
  • DATE OF CASUALTY:
  • February 12, 1968
  • BRANCH OF SERVICE:
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • PFC
  • STATUS:
  • KIA
  • COUNTRY:
  • South Vietnam

Biography


Leslie J. Frolich was born on February 24, 1948, to Ruth and William Frolich.  His home of record is Roselle, NJ.  He had three brothers, Daniel, Gene and Roger, and one sister, Gail.

Leslie graduated from Abraham Clark High School in 1966.

Frolich served in the US Army and attained the rank of Private First Class (PFC).  He served with the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, Company C.

Frolich was killed in action on February 12, 1968.  He is buried at Graceland Memorial Park, Kenilworth, NJ.

Frolich was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Military Merit Award and the Gallantry Cross w/palm from the Republic of Vietnam.

Leslie Frolich.  My brother.  Killed over 36 years ago.  The official papers say it happened with a single gunshot from a sniper in the area of Quang Tri in South Vietnam.  It happened during the Tet Offensive in February 1968.  He was not yet twenty years old.

He was born the third son of Ruth and Bill Frolich on February 24, 1948.  Eventually, he had a little brother and baby sister, as well.  We five kids all favored dad, but we all had different hair color.  Dan's was brown, Gene has red, Les had dark brown to almost black (the one feature that did favor Mom), Roger has blonde hair and mine is light brown.

Dad is an avid photographer.  He took pictures and developed them himself in the basement of the house in which he still lives.  Going through those pictures is a step back to a much simpler time.  Les was the happiest baby I have ever seen.  His pictures show him with giant smiles and big happy laughs.  Family movies complete the photo journey.  Les is forever frozen in time as a youthful, vibrant and clever boy.  Ironic then, that the only photo we have of him in uniform was taken by our aunt in North Carolina during a leave.  Even more ironic; no formal portrait of him by the Army to round out the portraits of my other three brothers who also served.

Our family is pretty much a do-it-yourself bunch.  We were exposed to many levels of fixing-up, make-it-work and start from scratch.  Les seemed to have inherited a more creative gene.  He did drawings, wrote stories and once he even wrote a screenplay.  Somewhere, in the pile of home movies, I'm sure is the battle epic he wrote, starred in and directed.  He wasn't shy about drafting anyone around to play in it.  I seem to remember brother Roger and I being talked into it.

Les was well known in our hometown.  It was a small town and he had a paper route, which extended his popularity.  Our town would occasionally have what most called "Junk Week".  In our family, we called it "Re-Distribution Week".  What one person threw away would make its way to another household, probably to be tossed out come next Junk Week.  Usually, you could find Les gathering stray bicycle parts to make one passable bicycle so he could do his paper route.  These bicycles, for the most part, worked.  But there were phone calls during dark, stormy nights calling for Dad to come and lend a hand somewhere along his route.

In time, Les managed to scrounge up a 1936 Oldsmobile and get it working.  He used that old car to travel to summer campgrounds to show movies to the campers.  Once, some ungrateful camper dumped a milk shake into his gas tank.  Once again, the call in the dark of night came in to Dad to come to his rescue.  Dad, Les and whatever other brother was around got the Olds working again, but Les retired the Olds from those camp runs.  He stepped up to a Rambler.  Les was fun, but not much for picking out cars.  But that Rambler lasted the family a good long while.

Graduation Day was a big deal.  Les's was no different.  He graduated from Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, NJ, on June 23, 1966.  I was too young to attend but it was held in Warinanco Park on what I am sure was a hot June day.  Mine was, so his probably was, too.

After graduation, Les found a job with New Jersy Bell in Linden as a draftsman.  He got the job in November 1966, but it was not to last very long.  He got his notice to report to the Army on August 21, 1967.  From then on, he became and will always be PFC Leslie J. Frolich, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division.

Christmas 1967 was the usual big family get-together.  Dad's sister from Elizabeth had four girls of her own and we always spent the holidays together at one or the other's home.  Les's last Christmas was to be the same.  We had the big tree, the turkey dinner and the huge mound of presents to get through.  We all had a wonderful, merry time, as we should have.  A week or so later, Les had to leave.  The last thing he said to me was "I'll be home for Christmas".  He didn't make it to his birthday.

He shipped out to Vietnam on January 10, 1968.  On February 12, 1968, he was gone.  Word reached my Dad at work on February 16, who then went for Mom at her work.  I came home from school for lunch and found Mom, Dad and the military escort standing where no one was supposed to be.  No one said a word and I knew.  We buried Les on February 26--two days after his twentieth birthday.

But that was not the end of things.  We received a letter from Les's commanding officer, LTC James B. Vaught.  In it, he said that Les was on a search and destroy mission west of the city of Hue.  Les had been hit by small arms fire.  LT Vaught tried to reassure us that Les died quickly without any unnecessary suffering.  Somehow, the rest of the letter strikes me now as form; what every other family who lost some one would have included in their letter.  At the time, it was comforting.

Les had a girlfriend.  They had wanted to be married before he left, but our parents would not hear of it.  He sent her the usual letters.  But he also sent her a poem he had written.  She forwarded it to us.  It is a strong, simple poem of his feelings about being in Vietnam.           

Cards and letters we had sent to Les began coming back to us, opening up all the hurt again.  The hardest was the birthday card he had sent to me.  My birthday was the 16th--always to be known to me as the day we received the fateful news.  It was a silly card with bad grammar and dumb jokes, all of which would have been appreciated if not for the circumstances.

Word came that Les would, of course, receive the Purple Heart.  Ceremonies were held at Fort Monmouth, NJ on July 5, 1968.  Once again, photos memorialize the moment of Dad and Mom receiving the award.

Later came the news that he would also receive the Bronze Star.  I always found it interesting that Les received the Bronze Star since he was in Vietnam for such a short period of time.  In reading over the citation that accompanied the medal, I found that no one thing distinguished Les in receiving the Bronze Star.  He displayed "meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force" and "untiring efforts."  "He was quick to grasp the implication of new problems...and find ways and means to solve those problems" and he had "intensive zeal, sound judgment and devotion to duty".  The Posthumous award was pinned on Mom on January 10, 1969.

We later received word from the Adjutant General that Les would be receiving the Military Merit Medal and the Gallantry Cross with Palm from the Government of the Republic of Vietnam.

Many forms of condolences were extended to my family in 1968.  There were cards, letters, people stopping by, people stopping by with food.  But there were also generous monetary donations left with my parents.  The funds were used to set up an award fund in Les's name at the high school.  It was a small cash award to "the hardest worker or workers" in the Technicians Club.  This award went on for many years until at last the fund finally was exhausted just a few years back.  I don't know how many of the recipients understood the meaning behind the award, but it was one small way to perpetuate Les's name and give meaning to his loss.

In time, New Jersey Bell dedicated a plaque to all those who died in the Vietnam conflict.  We and all the other family members were all invited to attend the lovely ceremony.  But even after 15 years, the hurt was still there.

I have found that the hurt never really goes away.  Anything can trigger it.  Looking over the family photos, certain Christmas trinkets, a simple song can rekindle a memory.  Songs like "I'll be Home for Christmas".  "Taps" is the worst. 

My husband and I try not to miss a single Memorial Day Service.  Growing up, we were acutely aware of the significance of the day.  Mom lost a brother in World War II.  Since 1968, it has an even stronger meaning.  Now with the war in Iraq and other distant places, we fervently hope that not too many others will feel the pain of loss.  Unfortunately, freedom does not come cheap.

Written by Gail Hoffman, Sister
April 2004

This poem was written by PFC Leslie J. Frolich while on duty in Vietnam, a few days before his death on February 12, 1968:

The evening is quiet
The soldier's relaxed
Wondering what riot
His nerves will be taxed.

The hills stand before
As green, rolling calm
Asking why a war
Should bring them such harm.

A village of farmers
Raising their rice
Are greeted with horrors
Of  Communist vice.

"It's their little war,"
Americans say,
"Why suffer the gore?
At home we should stay."

I, as a soldier
In Vietnam
Can holler the bolder,
"I give a damn!"

"I've left my home;
My family; my love.
I'm not alone,
And there's God above.

"We're here to stop
A people possessed.
We're here to stop
The Communist pest.

"Tomorrow's peace
Depends on today,
And freedom's release
On Oppression's decay."

"And I'll come home
After doing my part.
At the end of my roam
I'll return to my heart." 

Sources: Gail Hoffman (sister) and NJVVMF.

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