Donald Frey never did say much about his service in the U.S. Army, but he left a lot of memorabilia behind. Now his son, Scott, is trying to put the pieces together and get a better picture of his father’s military past.
“Dad never talked about his service,” Scott said. “I never even knew he was in the Coast Guard until I found his discharge papers.”
After patrolling the Great Lakes with the Guard, Don was drafted into the Army and first served in post-World War II Germany, followed by duty in Korea. He was discharged as a corporal in December 1953 at the end of the war in Korea.
Scott has puzzled out parts of his father’s past by looking through what was left behind. There are Army medals from Germany, military currency from Korea, a small field compass that was manufactured in Gladstone, Mich., plus badge, buttons and insignia.
Scott has sought help at the Veteran’s Affairs office in Adrian and learned his father was eligible for the Korean Service Medal—an honor bestowed 50 years after the fact to thousands of veterans from that era.
It was discovered at the veteran’s office that Don was entitled to two other medals.
The collection of memorabilia now includes a Letter of Appreciation from former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung issued in 2000 on the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities; a Certificate of Recognition from Robert Gates for service in the Cold War era; and a certificate from former U.S. President George W. Bush honoring Don’s service following his death in 2003.
Don’s uniform and the uniform worn by his father during World War I were donated to a museum in Illinois. Three of Don’s five older brothers were held as prisoners of war during World War II.
“He never talked about it and he never had any guns in the house,” Scott said, “but he did know how to fight. He taught us boys how to take someone down.”
Scott will continue to collect pieces of the past and pass the knowledge on to his son.
“My boy had no clue about what guys went through [in Korea],” Scott said.
That’s a part of war that often isn’t discussed.