Army Reserve Sergeant Eddie Frick balances family and military life

Army Reserve Sergeant Eddie Frick... Submitted photo.

The Eddie and Karen Frick family ... Left to right - Front row: Devin and Dalton. Back row: Caitlin, Eddie, Karen and Carver. Submitted photo.

Honoring those who have served as Veterans Day approaches

by Lissa Blake

Although Sergeant Eddie Frick isn’t someone who likes to draw attention to himself, his wife, Karen, thought it was time to honor him for his service to his country.

So with Veterans Day approaching, she encouraged him to share the story of how he has juggled being a busy family man with serving his country over the past 18 years.

“He is so reserved. I just think he deserves some recognition for everything he’s done,” said his wife, the former Karen Egan, of 15 years.

Eddie Frick is the son of Roger and Susan Frick of Waukon and a 2000 graduate of Waukon High School. He started dating Karen, the daughter of John and Deb Egan of rural Luana, when they were still attending Waukon High School.

As he looked forward to the future, Eddie said he had considered the military, but decided to attend college at Upper Iowa University instead. But just as he got into his freshman year at the school, the catastrophic events of 9/11 would change the course of history, not only for the country, but for Eddie personally.

“I remember I was sitting in the Peacock Lounge (on the Upper Iowa University campus in Fayette) when the towers went down. That made my decision easier,” recalled Eddie.

He immediately decided to sign up for the Army Reserves, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Chris. “I didn’t tell anyone, not even my parents, that I was signing up,” he said.

When asked how she felt when she found out Eddie had signed up, Karen said, “When he signed up, I was all worried, but he said, ‘My brother has been in it for how many years. I’m just going to do my weekends.’ A year later he was gone.”

In the summer of 2002, Eddie headed off to basic training in Fort Jackson, SC. After he was finished, he returned home for a month, during which he asked Karen to marry him, before going to Fort Leonard Wood, MO for combat training.

“I was learning how to look for mines and use explosives,” he said. After leaving Missouri, he went on to Gulfport, MS, where he “learned how to lay block and build stuff.”

Eddie said he’ll never forget the day he got home from MIT/MOS in Gulfport. It was February 25, 2003, and he called his father to tell him he’d need a ride home from Waterloo.

“I called to get a ride and my dad said I already had a message that I was supposed to report to Decorah the next morning,” he said. After two weeks of preparation in Decorah, Eddie and the Bravo Company 389th out of Decorah were headed to Iraq.

Eddie noted his brother, Chris, seven years his senior, was deployed to Iraq with the same group. But they were not the only relatives sharing the mission.

“It was hard for our parents, having us both gone at the same time, but it was probably easier for us. Everybody there, I considered family, but that unit really had a lot of family… there were brothers and uncles and fathers and daughters who got deployed together that time,” said Eddie.

While Chris outranked Eddie, Eddie said they were never in the same chain of command. “He was never directly in charge of me,” said Eddie.

Eddie said his first mission specialized in vertical construction. “We built up Baghdad International Airport. There had been nothing there, so we built places for people to live,” he said. “We put up tent frames and made it a base of operations. We worked with the 82nd Airborne to make their lives a little better.”

When asked if he ever had any close calls during his first deployment, Eddie remembered one. “We were coming back from working as part of a convoy and one truck was hit by a an IED (improvised explosive device). It caught one of the trailers, but there were no injuries and the trailer only suffered a flat tire,” he said.

Back home in May of 2004, Eddie helped Karen plan their wedding, which took place in August. After their marriage, the couple lived in Cresco, where Eddie worked construction and Karen attended school at Northeast Iowa Community College.

In November of 2005, the couple moved to Waterville and Eddie went to work at Design Homes in Prairie du Chien, WI before taking a job at the co-op in Postville. By November of the following year, the couple welcomed their first child, Dalton. Eddie continued to be active in the reserves, participating one weekend a month and approximately two weeks per year. They welcomed their second child, Devin, in 2008.

In January of 2011, Eddie embarked on his second tour, this time to Afghanistan, where he would work in personal security detail. “They needed someone who was qualified on a .50 cal (caliber). Any time a convoy was going out, I was in the lead truck as a .50-cal gunner,” he said.

Unlike his first mission, where the group stayed together, this time the soldiers were split up. “One platoon worked road missions, the other worked construction… I was with the headquarters group, based out of FOB Walton,” he said. (FOB Walton was a secure Forward Operating Base in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan.)

“In our first month of being there, we had a rocket-coordinated attack on where we were staying, and there were some vehicle IEDs at the main gate. There were some injuries, but no one from our unit was hurt,” he said.

During this second deployment, Eddie was away from his wife and two young sons for a whole year. When asked how she managed the distance, Karen said she kept busy and had tremendous family support.

“I had a full-time job and the boys kept me busy. My parents and Eddie’s parents both helped us. I’d been through it before, so I knew what to expect,” said Karen.

Karen added that with today’s technology, it was easier to stay connected with family back home. “I remember Skyping a birthday party so Eddie could watch one of the boys open his presents,” said Karen. “When he was deployed, I never watched the news… That’s sometimes too much information. I just figure no news is good news.”

In January of 2012, Eddie was able to return home and resume his job at the co-op in Postville, after which he took a position at Aveka in Waukon, where he still works today. A daughter, Caitlin, was born in 2013, and a third son, Carver, was born in 2016.

During his last deployment, Eddie was promoted to sergeant, which necessitated his transfer from Decorah (then called the 322nd) to the 327th Engineer Company in Onalaska, WI.

After returning from Afghanistan, he underwent knee surgery, as a result of his service. “Being a gunner, you do a lot of bouncing around,” he said.

Today he still spends one weekend a month and a couple of weeks a year (sometimes more) doing work with the Reserves. “We do a lot of projects at Fort McCoy. Right now we’re working on a project for the VA hospital in Tomah,” he said.

He’s also had the chance to see parts of the world he may not have seen otherwise. “My training has taken me to California, Germany, El Salvador, Honduras, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama and Romania,” he said, adding those trips usually involve working with other nations to help them, constructing schools and other projects.

Eddie added he was surprised and humbled two years ago when Boy Scout Pack 64 of Waukon honored him with several gifts. Both Dalton and Devin are members of the Boy Scouts, and when they started discussing their Honor a Hero badges, Dalton brought up his dad.

“We were talking about who we could honor and when I mentioned my dad, everybody thought it was a good idea,” said Dalton.

Eddie said he thought something was up when he arrived to give a talk to the Scouts and his dad was there. “I knew something was off when Karen came with me and I saw my dad walk in,” he said.

“It’s not in my nature to be out front. I’d rather be in the background,” he said, adding the members of the troop gave him a variety of wonderful keepsakes, including a blanket with pictures of him, a revamped 4-H project with his name on it, an American Eagle pillow case and more.

When asked if he has any regrets about joining up or having to be away from his family, Eddie said he has none. “I look at 9/11 like Pearl Harbor. We had to respond,” he said.

As for Karen, she said she wouldn’t change a thing about their life together. “We’re used to it. It’s all we’ve ever known. And the kids are used to it… when he has to leave for weekends or other trainings. We’re a pretty laid back group,” said Karen.

If all goes as planned, Eddie should be able to retire from the Army Reserves in March of 2023.

When asked if they think they might follow in their father’s footsteps, both Devin and Dalton think they will.

“Rather than the Reserves, I might urge them toward the ROTC. They can go to school, get a degree and enter as officers,” he said.

Because Eddie and Karen never got to go on a honeymoon, they spent their 10-year anniversary visiting Pearl Harbor, which Eddie said was quite an experience. He also hopes to visit the 9/11 memorial in New York City someday.

When asked how he feels about wars in this day and age, Eddie said they’re definitely different than in the past. “They’re not the same. Back in World War II, or the Korean and Vietnam wars - even Desert Storm - you knew who the enemy was. They had uniforms. Today, one guy could be talking to you and helping you find someone, and the next day he’s trying to harm you.”

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