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Interstate 77 bridge was dedicated to honor a fallen veteran from Rockport

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 9:13 PM EDT
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MINERAL WELLS, W.Va. (WTAP) -

A bridge located on Interstate 77 North and Southbound near mile marker 164 was renamed U.S. Army SSG William “Billy” E. Friese Memorial Bridge July 19.

Friends, family, and local community members gathered at Big Tygart United Methodist Church to celebrate the life and legacy of Staff Sergeant Friese. He was killed on July 19, 2019, while serving on active duty at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

“He was a good old West Virginia boy,” said Friese’s sister Kayla Lehan. “He loved his fishing, his hunting, and his kids, you know and he’s very loved and very missed around here.”

When talking with Friese’s family, everyone described him as fun, the life of the party, and always looking for the next big thing.

“We lived on a golf course and one of his favorite things to do is go and climb in this mucky little pond and he would go and collect all the golf balls, clean them all up and then he’d go up and set up buckets and he would sell them to all the golfers,” Lehan said.

Friese’s wife Nattakarn Srimoung-Friese described her relationship with her husband as just like any other couple: they laughed, cried, and fought together.

“It has been two years and he is always in our hearts,” she said. “...Sometimes we just cry and I told Sarah, you know, your dad is always going to be in your heart forever and at least we’re going to have to do good things for him.”

The lead sponsor of the resolution was Delegate Steve Westfall, who was in attendance and read aloud the resolution declaring that the bridge is named in Staff Sergeant Friese’s name. Afterward, Westfall presented Friese’s two children, Narissara “Sarah” Srimoung and Christian Friese, with smaller copies of the sign that can be found on the bridge.

“...With this bridge dedication, it means so much to our family because I told her {Sarah} in the future when you have kids, and your kids have kids, it’s {the bridge} going to be there to remember him for fighting for our country,” Srimoung-Friese said.

Friese had a huge impact on his local community and Lehan appreciates everyone coming out to support the family, even after two years.

“It means everything, like even when we had his service and we were driving him back from receiving him the amount of people that just stopped, put their hands over their hearts, took their hats off and to just show their support, even people that he didn’t even know. So to know that the community still cares two years later, it really warms our hearts to know that,” she said.

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