Veteran Raymond Frye joined the military as a teenager. He served for eight years as an infantry soldier, and he has been enrolled at Northwestern since January.
Frye started attending a community college right after high school, but he later made the decision to join the military at the age of 19. His family was supportive of his decision.
“I have a dad and uncle in the infantry, a brother in the Air Force and a cousin in the Marines,” Frye said. “I joined because of my sense of adventure.”
Frye served as an infantry soldier in the Army and Air Force. He started his basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. Frye trained for two months at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California before being deployed to Iraq.
While deployed in Iraq, Frye was a combat soldier. Frye said he had several duties, which included apprehending high-value targets (looking for terrorists), providing security for convoys and helping eliminate villagers’ threats (terrorists).
While Frye was in Iraq, he worked on two campaigns. The first mission, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was designed for combat operations, which included finding and killing terrorists. This mission is an ongoing battle that is still in effect today.
The second mission, Operation New Dawn, didn’t work the way it was planned.
“New Dawn was meant for hearts and minds. We trained the Iraqis for the military transition to allow their military to regain power,” Frye said. “This never happened, and we ended up still fighting bad guys.”
Frye said his experience in the Middle East was an eyeopener. There is a large gap between the rich and the poor. He said the rich were “Westernized” and went to universities and drove nice cars. The poor resided in ghettos and villages.
“I couldn’t believe how ignorant the people were,” Frye said. “Their literacy rates were really low. The women would sleep outside, and the men would get to sleep inside. The children would be literally sitting in trash. Everything was completely trashed and dirty.”
Many American soldiers did not agree with the religious practices of the Iraqis or how they treated the women of their country.
“Religion controlled them,” Frye said. “It made me question my own faith. I couldn’t believe how religion can affect a person and make them ignorant. Living conditions of Iraqi children were terrible. War is never good, but it got to the point where we were helping people that didn’t want to help themselves.”
The first time Frye was ever scared was when rounds were going off near his head. Most soldiers would either do their duty or freeze up.
“You would get a sense of a high or rush,” Frye said. “The reason why (soldiers) like combat is because of the high you get. The only time you realize you don’t like it is when people start dying. I was always thinking I would die.”
The experience that affected Frye the most was when his best friend died. Frye’s unit was stationed at an Iraqi compound, and the soldiers were enjoying down time. The unit was to meet up with the Iraqi security forces, who were supposed to be allies to the unit.
“One guy came in and started shooting people,” Frye said. “My best friend died in my arms. I lost two of my best friends overseas. I was a mess.”
It was challenging for Frye to regain his faith after leaving Iraq. Before being sent home, he was stationed at a fort in Hawaii to recuperate.
“It took me two years to get my faith back. It definitely left when my friend died,” Frye said.
“It took me two years to get my faith back,” Frye said. ”It definitely left when my friend died.”
While in Hawaii, Frye said he had a hard time dealing with the trauma he experienced overseas. He was angry at the way the Iraqis had taken religion and somehow twisted it into something evil. Frye even tried to end his life.
“I ran from God,” Frye said. “I saw what religion does and I was pissed. I was drinking and sleeping around. One night I was by myself on the beach and I started yelling at God, and I tried to kill myself.”
Frye said he felt God’s presence, but could not explain the feeling that came over him.
“I got this realization, and God told me that people have hijacked what he meant to say,” Frye said. “I realized the importance of not taking for granted what God said to do and not do.”
Frye went to therapy to deal with his pain. He said it took him two years to regain his faith.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Frye said. “If I would change something it would be my friend’s death, but 15 people wouldn’t have become Christians if it weren’t for him. Veterans want peace the most. We don’t want our friends and brothers to give up dreams and have the regrets that we have.”
Frye plans to be a history major and earn a teaching degree here at NW. He said he wants to move his life in a positive direction.
“I like growing closer to God and the like-minded individuals at Northwestern,” Frye said.