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Chad Frokjer dies at 27; Marine Corps sergeant from Oceanside

Chad Frokjer was killed when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, on the Pakistani border.

January 15, 2012|By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times
  • Chad Frokjer, seen in Afghanistan, was a convoy commander assigned to a Camp Pendleton-based unit. He enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from high school in 2002 and served two tours in Iraq.
Chad Frokjer, seen in Afghanistan, was a convoy commander assigned to a…

Christmas Day was painful for Leslie Frokjer.

That morning, she stepped away from her family briefly and tearfully reread her husband's last, loving letter, sent from Afghanistan just days before he died.

It didn't get easier when she emerged from her bedroom to be with her parents, grandparents and 2-month-old son. Looking into the baby's eyes, she was reminded again of her husband and that her boy will never know his father or spend a Christmas at his side.

Marine Sgt. Chad Frokjer was killed June 30 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, on the Pakistani border.

Frokjer, 27, was a convoy commander assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

On Oct. 6, nearly four months after her husband's death, Leslie Frokjer, of Garden Grove, gave birth to the couple's only child, Eli James.

"Little Eli has my smile and Chad's eyes," she said. "All I have to do is look at those eyes and remember Chad and what a great man he was and what a great father he would have been."

Chad Frokjer grew up in Maplewood, Minn., the younger of two siblings. Even as a toddler, he professed a deep loyalty to his country, said his father, Brian Frokjer, a carpenter and window installer.

Young Chad grew into an outgoing, friendly, loyal teen, his father said, and in high school he began figuring out what he wanted for his future.

"I remember at first he made a scrapbook and in it he said that he wanted to be in the military and then maybe be a police officer or a window man like his father," Brian Frokjer said. "Well, by the time he graduated high school, it was clear he was going to be a Marine. He said he wanted to join them because they were 'the baddest.'"

In 2002, shortly after his high school graduation, the young man enlisted in the Marine Corps and soon found himself in California, stationed at Camp Pendleton.

His father said that being a Marine was a job Chad loved, mainly because it gave him a feeling of camaraderie and a sense that he was standing up for his country after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Frokjer served two tours of duty in Iraq.

When he returned home after the second tour, he went out with a group of friends in San Diego and met Leslie Jaroscak.

"We hit it off pretty much right away," she said. "It wasn't just that he was handsome, it was that we both had the same sort of sarcastic sense of humor."

After dating for about a year, the couple wed in November 2010 and began living in Frokjer's Oceanside apartment. A few months later, he deployed to Afghanistan, eager to get through his mission so he could come home and meet his son for the first time.

The couple decided on the name Eli as they spoke on the phone from Afghanistan. Not long afterward, Frokjer wrote his last letter to his wife. His words were unusually emotional.

"It was odd," said Leslie Frokjer, 26, who recently finished nursing school. "Instead of writing about how he was doing and what he was going through, he was saying, 'I love you so much and if Eli were here, he would know how much I loved him.…'

"Nothing about the holidays was easy," she continued. "I have to move forward with my life and take care of Eli. I will always be able to look at him and remember Chad."

In addition to his wife and son, Frokjer is survived by his parents, Brian and Arlene Frokjer; and his sister, Nikki. He was buried in Maplewood, a few miles from his childhood home.

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