FORT POLK, La. (KALB) - On October 1st, 2017 in Iraq, Staff Sergeant Daniel Fricke of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment joined other soldiers in Fort Polk’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division as a last-minute addition to a convoy headed to another base.
Photo Credit: Lydia Magallanes / KALB
“So, I ran and grabbed a quick bag and threw it in the truck, jumped in, and we took off,” he said.
The ride lasted a couple hours. SSG Fricke said they were less than two miles from their destination when the vehicle in front of him struck an improvised explosive device.
“Didn’t feel it too much. Just heard it. And that was kind of where it all went wrong,” Fricke said. “It disabled the engine. It went through the motor. There was oil all over the ground and the truck was not going to move. It blew out one of the tires.”
Staff Sergeant Fricke said the driver, Specialist Alexander Missildine was unresponsive.
“So, I immediately started cutting his seatbelt off to pull him out. As soon as I got him out of the vehicle, I pulled his body armor off to check his injuries. That was when me and the medic started performing first aide on him,” Fricke said.
The passenger, Sergeant First Class David Mathis, was also wounded. The soldiers worked frantically to stabilize the casualties and get to the base where a helicopter would evacuate them.
“The three of us that dealt with the casualties the most, it wasn't the first time we had seen something along those lines,” he said. “Everything that I’ve been trained in, it was just do your job, go through the motions, and make sure that you bring this guy home.”
Later that day, the soldiers learned that SPC. Missildine had died.
“Every time you're in an incident like that, you're going to wonder maybe you didn’t do something,” Fricke said. “You want to blame yourself because you know you were there. We were informed that there was nothing we could have done.”
SSG Fricke had also injured his back carrying the casualties, both more than six feet tall and nearly two hundred pounds each. He spent about three months recovering, eager to get back to his soldiers.
“I want to be the one that's around if something does happen. And so it was motivation to get back to it. The next fight was completing the mission and getting back home,” Fricke said.
SPC. Missildine's passenger survived and for their actions, SSG Fricke and the two soldiers in his vehicle were awarded army commendation medals for valor and service under combat conditions.
“The award is not what matters,” Fricke said. “Knowing that one of the soldiers went home to his family, that's what matters to me.”
Eight months after the attack, they would see the soldier for the first time in June. The sight of Sergeant First Class Mathis running with the brigade on prosthetic legs was a memorable moment.
“He’s broken through that barrier and he's trying to move on with his life and it’s so very inspiring to see someone push themselves that hard to achieve their goals,” Fricke said.
SSG Fricke didn't expect to be on that convoy a year ago in Iraq, but it made all the difference to the Mathis family.
“When he told his wife that we were the ones that brought him home, that impacted me more than anything. Just her reaction and how he felt about it,” Fricke said. “No one wakes up in the morning and wants to see something like that. But when it happens, and God forbid it does, but when it happens you sacrifice something. And that's what being a soldier is to me, stepping up and making that ultimate sacrifice for your country.”