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9/11 inspired ex-Yuba man to join service
The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the news Troy Frey heard on the radio compelled him not to go to work that day as a personal trainer.
Instead, the 1989 Lindhurst High School graduate watched unforgettable images on television, and said he decided he had to do something more.
"By that afternoon, I was in the recruiting office," said Frey, 40, now a US Army captain.
If media images affected him then, he is dealing with them in a different way now, with duties as a public information officer for the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
Frey said he joined the military to be in the infantry, but after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a series of injuries, he wasn't capable of the physical activity required of an infantryman.
So when asked as an officer what his functional area would be, he chose public relations.
"The big thing is, I want to be able to tell a solid story as long as it doesn't affect the current mission," Frey said, explaining how he will tell embedded journalists they might get a sense of what the mission for the day will be, but can't reveal it until after it's over.
Part of Frey's duties also involve getting those embedded media members up to speed on what they'll encounter, and helping make their experience as close to what soldiers see, hear and feel as possible.
But not all stories he helps with are war stories. In recent months, he helped a crew from the Animal Planet cable network with a program about working animals for the military.
"When we see media, and it's coming from a third party, it's more believable than coming from myself," Frey said, adding, "We try to be as transparent as possible."
Her son's decision to join the Army caught Karen Frey, who lives in Olivehurst, off guard. And even as a public information officer, she said, she worries for his safety.
When she thinks about her son growing up, though, she recalls his sense of justice.
"There was a little kid on the street, and no one liked him, because he was a brat, really," Karen Frey said. But when bigger kids would push a smaller kid around, Troy Frey would defend him.
"He wasn't a fighter," she said. "But he did always want to be there for the little guy."
Troy Frey, whose father was a member of the US Air Force and stationed at Beale Air Force Base, said he considered the military when he graduated high school, but instead went to college and earned a degree in psychology.
Now, he said, he is thinking he'll make a career of the Army.
"We'll have to see what the military wants to do with me," Troy Frey said.
If there is one message he wants civilians at home to know, it's how serving in the military is a sacrifice for both the enlisted and their families, he said.
"These soldiers train all the time," Troy Frey said, adding time spent in the field takes away from important events at home, though he was fortunate enough to be on leave when his son, now 8, was born.
"It's an all-volunteer force. We do this because we want to."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.