Honoring American Heroes: Lena family receives portrait of Specialist Nichole M. Frye

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LENA, Wis. (WBAY) -- The Lena family of an Army Reserve Specialist killed in Iraq in 2004 is honored with a portrait of their 19-year-old daughter Monday.

We first told you about 94-year-old World War II Marine Alex Yawor in February after he painted three portraits of fallen heroes from the Luxemburg-Casco area.

Yawor hasn’t put the paint brush down since, and this time, he is honoring Army Reserve Specialist Nichole M. Frye, who died a little more than two weeks into her deployment.

“Her smile is one thing that stands out in everyone's mind,” said Lisa Frye, Specialist Frye’s mother. “It humbles us that everyone is still remembering her even though this is a small town.”

Nichole’s parents, Jayme and Lisa Frye, said their daughter wanted to help people.

“She wanted to do something to help the community, like a firefighter or police officer,“ said Jayme Frye, Specialist Frye’s father.

But first, she had to find a way to pay for college.

“She knew she could get training and other things through the military and money to go on to school, so that is the route she took,” said Lisa.

A former neighbor remembers her love for learning.

“She came to me one day and says, 'I want to go to college,' I said, ‘Great’,” said Darrell Kushava, American Legion Post 342. “I said, ‘What’s the plan?’ she said, ‘Reserves’, and actually that was the last thing I said to her.”

Just 19 days into her tour in Iraq, Specialist Frye died February 16, 2004.

“I can still see that officer that came and told us,” said Lisa. “It's still hard and bad memory that we relive every day.”

She is buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Lena. The groundskeeper, Kushava, says he continues to watch over Specialist Frye’s final resting spot.

“If there is anything wrong with the flags, I replace them,” said Kushava.

And now, with the donation of a flag pole from another American Legion Post in Rome, WI, Kushava will have one more flag to take care of while he tends the grounds.

“I make sure the flags look nice, that's part of what I do,” said Kushava.

“We are here to dedicate a flag pole to all veterans, including Nichole Frye,” said Carl Blahnik, Commander of American Legion Post 342. “Nichole and her family made the ultimate sacrifice.”