Wednesday November 7, 2012Frazier Family will be Beaming with Pride, Honor and Achievement at Navy-Marine Corps Classic
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At a very young age, Michael Frazier II knew his father had once served in the Army. He even knew his dad had been in combat.
As for details of those harrowing times, the young Frazier had next to none.
In fact, it wasn't until he was rummaging through some old boxes and files in a garage a few years later that Frazier, the freshman guard for the Florida basketball team, happened upon some photos of his father.
"That's when it kind of hit me," Frazier said. "He'd never really talked about his time in the service. I think maybe that's how it is for a lot of dads that served. They maybe avoid talking to their kids about that stuff. But I could only imagine some of the things he saw."
Now, imagine Frazier on Friday night when the 10th-ranked Gators take on Georgetown in the Navy/Marines Corps Classic on the USS Bataan in the first regular-season basketball game of his collegiate life.
And to think Frazier thought he was pumped up during pre-game for last week's exhibition game opener. He surely played like it, scoring a game-high 21 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the 3-point line in a 101-71 beating of Nebraska-Kearney.
"My adrenaline was really flowing before that one," he said. It might just be boiling red, white and blue Friday night ... for both Frazier and his father.
Michael Frazier Sr., will be among the 3,500 on deck at the makeshift basketball arena, bubbling with pride, honor and achievement not only for he, but for Michael and the rest of the Gators.
"For me, this will be a time to reconnect, while at the same time appreciate those who are still carrying the torch for freedom and putting their lives on the line every day," said Frazier Sr., now a pastor at Mount Zion Methodist Church in Clearwater, Fla. "You hope Michael and his and his teammates will appreciate and be in touch with that -- and I think they will. I believe the time they share with the troops will leave an indelible mark on their lives."
Threads of connections to the military run throughout the UF basketball complex (see chart below), but Frazier, the Tampa product who starred at Montverde (Fla.) Academy last year, is the only player on the 15-man roster with a parent who saw combat.
A year ago, Frazier and several teammates at Montverde sat in their dorm and watched the historic Carrier Classic between North Carolina and Michigan State, played on the USS Carl Vinson six months after the vessel carried Osama bid Laden to his burial at sea. Frazier watched the patriotic spectacle unfold with a different perspective than others.
"I've always appreciated the troops, maybe more so than a person who doesn't come from a military family," Frazier said. "My dad put his life in jeopardy to secure our country. I think that's one of the most unselfish things a person can do; put their country before their family, before even themselves. Those people who put their life on the line, they're the ones that make this such a great country, and a safe country."
Frazier's father served 13 years, splitting time between the Army and National Guard.
In the fall of 1990, while working in a hospital, he received a call around 4 a.m. to report immediately for active duty as part of Desert Shield.
Civilian one day, soldier the next.
In a matter of months, Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm and Frazier was knee-deep in casualties -- both American and Iraqi -- as a second lieutenant in the medical service corps.
"I don't talk a whole lot about that, never really have ... not even with Michael," he said. "I was responsible for making sure that we had manpower as well as equipment to treat people. I'll just say, at that time, it was more of a bombing campaign than a ground campaign; and whenever bombs are involved the injuries are much different."
Michael was born three years, in 1994, after his father returned from war.
"I pretty much spared him the gory details," father said of son.
They weren't needed.
"I understand, believe me," young Michael said. "I think all of us understand, and I think all of us will have an even greater appreciation of what our military does after this week."
GATORS BASKETBALL MILITARY CONNECTIONS
• G/F Casey Prather's sister, Brittany, is in the National Guard.
• Walk-on G Jacob Kurtz grandfather, Henry Cuzydio, was a Marine in the Korean War.
• Coach Billy Donovan father, Bill Donovan, served in the Army.
• Assistant coach Matt McCall, whose father was a linebacker for the Gators in the late-60s served in the Army, while father-in-law Eddie Rios was an Army soldier and prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCall's grandparents, Wayne and Catherine McCall, served in the Navy.
• Athletic trainer Duke Werner's father, Herman Werner Jr., earned two Purple Hearts in the Korean War.
• Assistant Coach John Pelphrey's father, Jack Pelphrey served in the Korean War, reached the rank of Corporal and was a tank commander. Also spent time stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.
• Strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene's father, Jerry Greene, served 22 years in the Army and earned two Bronze Stars (two for valor), three Purple Hearts, four Air Medals and two Legion of Merits. See accompanying video.
• Video coordinator Oliver Winterbone's close friend, Dennis Zilinski was a West Point graduate killed in action in Iraq in 2005. Winterbone's father-in-law, Fred Funk, served 21 years in the Army. Both his grandfathers served, also; Ben Wilson in the US Navy and John Winterbone in the British Army during World War II.
• Assistant Video Coordinator Billy O'Meara's brother Brendan is a Marine currently deployed in Afghanistan and assistant video coordinator Todd Lewiston is a commissioned officer in the National Guard as a Commissioned Officer.
• Office Manager Tracy Pfaff's brother-in-law John Donaldson is a USMC Disabled Veteran and UF basketball sports information director SID Denver Parler's grandfather, Richard Parler, served in the Navy during World War II.