Members of the Alaska Legislature took time on Friday, Feb. 3, to remember Lance Cpl. Grant Fraser, who died Aug. 3, 2005, with 13 of his fellow U.S. Marines when a roadside bomb detonated near the transport vehicle in which they were traveling near Haditha, Iraq. Fraser was a month from returning home, his mother Sharon Long said.
Sen. Charlie Huggins (R-Wasilla) and Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage) read a memoriam and honored Fraser's family at a reception held at the state capitol. Fraser was the son of Long and James Fraser and the brother of Victoria Fraser. He was a 2001 graduate of Service High School in Anchorage.
Huggins, a veteran of Vietnam, paused with emotion as he spoke to a crowd of about 30, also in tears, including Fraser's aunt, Nancy Long, and friend Josh Tempel, a Marine from Anchorage who served in Iraq with Fraser and works as a staff member for Huggins.
"We met three years ago and went through some pretty intense training together," Tempel said. "In Iraq you have to have a friend to rely on. You live together and sit on post a day or two at a time. You know each other to the fullest and trust each other."
Tempel said that he had briefly met Long in December 2004 before going to Iraq, and she was at the airport to greet him when he returned in October with Fraser's ashes.
"They're my family now. There are a few other Marines back in Anchorage, and we all knew Grant. We all act like big brothers to his sister Victoria," Tempel said.
"We're all really close, and they are truly my family."
Long said she appreciates the Marines who served with Fraser and who she has come to know and consider part of her family.
"Some people say that it would be like they're trying to replace Grant, but it's not like that. It's so wonderful to have that energy and connection to those guys," Long said. "It's a way for them to stay connected to Grant too. There's a bond amongst those guys that few of us can understand."
Long said Fraser enjoyed scuba diving, music and acting.
"He found theater even in the Marines. When they needed a volunteer to dress up for an event or a presentation, he would raise his hand," Long said. "He got in trouble for juggling rubber grenades when he first joined the Marines. I'm told he juggled the real ones when he was in Iraq."
Fraser's aunt and Long's sister, Nancy Long, said she was surprised when her nephew announced that he had joined the Marines.
"He was really excited about it and after we got over being surprised we were behind him 100 percent. He was very proud to be a Marine," Nancy Long said. "It wasn't like he grew up talking about being in the military, but he wanted a challenge and to feel like he was contributing."
Long, a resident of Juneau and employee of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said Fraser enjoyed visiting Juneau, where he first learned to fish.
Long said Fraser, the oldest of his generation in his family, encouraged family members to try new things.
"He was a wonderful spirit to have around. We miss him. This changed our family," Long said. "We miss that spirit and adventure he gave us."
With Grant's birthday approaching, Tempel said he wanted to do something to honor his friend.
"I felt like we did him honor by making sure his mom and family know how much he was appreciate and still is appreciated," Tempel said.
He handed out a tribute written by Fraser's cousin, Shawn Robinson.
Part of it reads, "As a Marine, Grant was the destroyer of our opponents. In death his spirit now joins the bedrock of our great nation."
Long said she is grateful for all the Legislature and Tempel did to honor her son on what would have been his 23rd birthday.
"It was really heart warming. When he died, it was like, 'How do you get through everyday, let alone the big days?' You don't want to just let it slide by, but you don't know what to do," Sharon Long said.
"It was in ideal way to acknowledge him, and we're honored that they did it."