William Edward Friese
Portrait of William Edward Friese
by Michael G. Reagan, as posted on Find A Grave (Memorial Number 201664247); used with permission

West Virginia Military Casualities non-Veterans Memorial


William Edward Friese

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

Winston S. Churchill

William Edward Friese was born on September 29, 1988, in Rockport, Wood County, West Virginia. His parents were William "Bill" Allen Friese and Cathy Teehan. His parents later divorced. Growing up, William was commonly referred to as "Billy." Billy grew up in Rockport, on an old gravel road, hunting, catching crawdads, playing/fighting with his siblings and drinking his grandma's sweet tea. He was country, a little bit hillbilly, and proud of it. Within his household, Billy had many biological and stepsiblings. Billy's siblings include Josh Ward, Kyle Ward, Nathaniel Duvuvuei, Orin Duvuvuei, Ashley "Nikki" Morris, and Kayla Lehan. "SSGT William Edward 'Billy' Friese," Find A Grave, accessed 1 February 2022, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/201664247/william-edward-friese.)

Billy attended Parkersburg South High School, where he graduated in 2007. He later earned an Occupational Associate Degree in specialized Diesel Tech and Management from WyoTech, a community college in Wyoming. Despite going to WyoTech and having the opportunity to go straight into the work force, Billy had a passion for service and community, which led him to join the West Virginia Army National Guard. ("William Edward Friese," Dignity Memorial, accessed 1 February 2022, https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/parkersburg-wv/william-friese-8785176.)

Billy, who was a smart, dedicated, and caring man, spent his life serving others, while remaining true to his roots. According to Billy's sister, Kayla Lehan, "He was ready to do the next big thing. We lived on a golf course, and one of his favorite things to do was to go into a little pond and get all the golf balls. Clean them all up, set them up in buckets to sell them to all the golfers, so he was always ready for the next day." Billy was a go-getter and was determined to do good. (Tyler Bennett, "Bridge Being Renamed for U.S. Army Staff SGT William 'Billy' Friese," Parkersburg News and Sentinel, 20 July 2021, accessed 1 February 2022, https://www.newsandsentinel.com/news/local-news/2021/07/bridge-being-renamed-for-u-s-army-staff-sgt-william-billy-e-friese/.) Billy was married to Nattakarn "Tookta" Srimoung and they had two children, Christian Alan Friese and Narissara Friese.

During Billy's childhood spent at Rockport, Wood County, West Virginia, many difficulties and changes were occurring within the world. These changes included the end of the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the rise of Islamic terrorists. The Cold War was an ongoing political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies that developed after World War II. In 1989, the ending of the Cold War occurred and resulted in the opening of borders and free elections that ousted Communist regimes everywhere in Eastern Europe, resulting in a sigh of relief for United States citizens. In late 1991, the Soviet Union itself dissolved into its component republics. Following the Cold War, the Gulf War, otherwise known as the Persian Gulf War, was an international conflict triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. (Michael Ray, "Persian Gulf War," Encyclopedia Britannica, last revised and updated 9 January 2022, accessed 1 February 2022, https://www.britannica.com/event/Persian-Gulf-War.) The Iraqi invasion and the potential threat it then posed to Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer and exporter, prompted the United States and its western European NATO allies to rush troops to Saudi Arabia to deter a possible attack.

In 1989, the Al-Qaeda forces in Saudi Arabia dedicated themselves to further opposing non-Islamic governments in this region with force and violence. The group grew out of the "mekhtab al khidemat" (the Services Office) organization, which maintained offices in various parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. Al-Qaeda began to provide training camps and guesthouses in various areas for the use of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups. The terrorist group Al-Qaeda began appearing within Russia, as well as provoking more terrorist attacks elsewhere. The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States caused various conflicts and problems, thus leading to the global war on terrorism. (Amy Tikkanen, "Al-Qaeda," Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed 1 February2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/al-Qaeda; J. T. Caruso, "Al-Qaeda International," The FBI [testimony], 8 December 2001, accessed 1 February 2022, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/al-qaeda-international.) All these factors combined led to many external challenges in the world that surrounded Billy. Due to these external factors having a negative effect on both the world he lived in and his home, they hold a probable chance of being the reason as to why Billy became interested in serving his country and protecting his community. Billy's childhood was full of challenges, but they molded him into the honorable soldier that he was.

In 2008, Billy decided to join the West Virginia Army National Guard and was assigned to the 111th Engineer Brigade. In 2010, Billy's unit, the 1092nd Engineer Battalion, deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2014, the United States launched Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and to set the conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability. (Sean W. O'Donnell, U.S. Department of Defense, Operation Inherent Resolve: January 1, 2020-March 31, 2020, accessed 1 February 2022, https://www.stateoig.gov/system/files/lig_oir_q2_mar2020_gold_508_0513.pdf.) In 2019, Billy was assigned to the 821st Engineer Company, and his unit deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, to serve as a vehicle mechanic in support of OIR.

Billy and his unit dedicated their time and focus to aiding our soldiers' safety and protecting our freedom. Throughout his 12 years in the military, Billy conducted military work that protected and helped our country; he reached the rank of staff sergeant (SSG). Unfortunately, on July 18, 2019, SSG Billy Friese suffered a medical emergency and suddenly passed away while stationed in Kuwait. (Holli Nelson, West Virginia National Guard [newsletter], "West Virginia National Guard Identifies Army Casualty," 20 July 2019, accessed 1 February 2022, https://www.wv.ng.mil/News/Article/1911347/west-virginia-national-guard-identifies-army-casualty/.) His body was returned to West Virginia, where there was a memorial service on August 1, 2019, at Parkersburg South Baptist Church. The funeral service was held on the following day, August 2, 2019, at the same church with Ed Rogers officiating. The burial with military honors followed the service where he was laid to rest at Sunset Memory Gardens in Parkersburg.
<i>Find A Grave</i> photo of William Edward Friese's gravesite. Courtesy of Brett Hickle

Find A Grave photo of William Edward Friese's gravesite. Courtesy of Brett Hickle

For his dedicated service, SSG William "Billy" Friese was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon with Bronze Star Device, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Mobilization Device, the Army Service Ribbon, the Army Overseas Ribbon, the Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, the West Virginia National Guard Emergency Services Ribbon with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the West Virginia National Guard State Service Ribbon with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, and the West Virginia National Guard Service Ribbon.

On April 2, 2021, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 25 to honor SSG William Friese for his dedication to community, state, and nation. This resolution included a ceremony renaming a bridge locally known as City Beer Overpass carrying Interstate 77 over West Virginia Route 21 in Wood County, renaming it "The William Edward Friese Memorial Bridge."

Article prepared by Lily Parker and Emma Adkins, George Washington High School JROTC
January 2022


West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

Veterans Memorial Database

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Archives and History