John T. Fralish, Petty Officer 3rd Class
Petty Officer 3rd Class John T. Fralish played his rugby with the Old Gaelic Club and was the first corpsman to die in Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stationed at Marine Corps Base, Hawaii.
Fralish, a 1994 Cumberland Valley High School graduate, was working for a Harrisburg food service equipment company when the Sept. 11 attacks came, and — perhaps inspired by the tradition of military service in his family — he felt the tug to do something.
It was in the Navy, family members have said, that Fralish seemed to find his calling.
After joining in 2002, he participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and served a second tour of duty there in 2004. He had also served in a military hospital in Kuwait.
“He was a very gung-ho person,” his father said. “He loved being ‘green side,’ which is in the field, and he tried very hard to be the best that he could be.”
“We were on a patrol in the Gonepal Valley when the ACM (Anti-Coalition Militia) attacked us,” said 2nd Lt. Austin Fletcher, Alpha Company Platoon commander, 2nd Platoon, 1/3. “HM3 (Hospital Corpsman third class) Fralish was killed in the first burst of enemy fire. We immediately returned fire, and the resulting firefight lasted approximately two or three minutes before the ACM scurried back into the hills.”
In addition to the ground battle, coalition air support was also called in, but enemy casualties were unable to be confirmed, noted Fletcher.
“HM3 Fralish always put his Marines’ safety and well-being ahead of his own,” said Fletcher, a native of Buckhannon, W. Va. “He wasn’t the type of corpsman who was ever in the rear. He was always quick to volunteer to be on the front lines with the Marines. He was a very selfless man. The bond between Marines and their corpsmen is one of the strongest bonds there is, and our bond with HM3 Fralish was especially so. He was one of us.”
Fralish, was an avid surfer and 1994 graduate of Cumberland Valley High School in central Pennsylvania and played rugby with the Old Gaelic Rugby Club.
Fralish was not married and did not have any children, his brother said. He was the third-oldest of six brothers and sisters.
On April 19, 2011 in the presence of his father, James, and several other family members, the new men’s barracks at the Navy Medicine Training Center at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas, was formally opened as Fralish Hall.
The name of John Fralish lives on in the mountains of Afghanistan among the local population,” said Army 1st Sgt. David Schneider, a first sergeant of E Company of the 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry of the Michigan Army National Guard. “Just before he died, John risked his life to save the life of a little Afghan girl on the brink of death.”
While on patrol in the same valley a week prior to Fralish’s death, he got word from an elderly Afghan man that a little girl was in bad shape a few miles away.
Fralish, Schneider, two ANA soldiers, an interpreter and another Marine left with the old man to find the girl. We were led to a small mud hut in the middle of nowhere and the the little girls leg was infected so bad, you could smell it when you walked in. Fabric from an old dress was being used as a bandage, and it was soaked through not with blood, but with puss. Fralish cleaned and bandaged the large infected wound on the girls lower leg and told her uncle, “With out proper medical treatment she will die in a few days.”
Fralish then wrote a letter explaining the urgency of the situation so she could be granted access to a coalition base with proper medical facilities. He also gave the man his crows feet so they could prove the legitimacy of the letter.
“Well, the girl’s family showed the note John had written, along with his rank insignia, at every check point, and it got their car through to Bagram where the little girl underwent successful surgery. She made it, and she’s recovering nicely and is alive and well now directly because of John. She has a second chance at life.”
Around the time of the girl’s surgery, Fralish was killed in action.