He is a captain in the Tennessee National Guard. At work he’s known as “Captain America” and as Patrol Corporal Zachary “Zac” Ryan Frye, loving life and giving back to the community into which he was born 30 years ago.
That community is Loudon County. Frye is in his sixth year of working for Sheriff Tim Guider’s Loudon County Sheriff’s Office. He has served in the Tennessee Guard for 10 years with the 278th Armored Cavalry out of Cookeville with one overseas deployment to Poland.
While in the Guard, he earned degrees in sociology and criminal justice from Tennessee Tech in 2014 after graduating from Lenoir City High School in 2010, where he played football, baseball and ran track. In addition to his nights as a patrol supervisor, he’s an adjunct instructor at the East Tennessee Regional Law Enforcement Academy at Walters State Community College in Morristown.
His work at home is major in his life, too. He and wife Nicky, who teaches kindergarten at Loudon Elementary, are the busy parents of three kids, ages 8, 3 and 18 months.
LCSO Sgt. Matt Fagiana, Frye’s immediate supervisor and the department’s spokesman, does not mince words about him. “He’s wise and able well beyond his years. Zac is one of the biggest reasons that I am successful as a sergeant. Having him as my corporal not only provides a great balance to our teamwork, but it makes our work together a lot of fun,” he said. “And our close trust and relationship, along with our desire to make our guys enjoy their careers, creates a really amazing atmosphere amongst our squad. The only thing I have to worry about with Zac is if his perfect hair gets messed up – other than that, he handles this stressful job and his role as a supervisor extremely well.”
And his co-workers tagged him with the Captain America nickname. “They think I look like the guy who plays Captain America, Chris Evans,” he explained. “Most weeks I work out in the mornings anywhere from five to seven days staying fit and the 90 minutes at the gym helps me cope with work and the stress.”
His attraction to this career happened during his senior year in high school. “I attended the Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy and met Sheriff Guider and Deputy Chief Jimmy Davis. I learned about every aspect of the department. I saw what impact a law enforcement agency can make on a community and it drew me in that direction, helping the community I grew up in.”
He thought about trying to work at the federal level, but the more he was at LCSO, the less the feds were on his mind. “I realized that our role in the community is really important and I decided that this is my place, this job, in my hometown. I love it that we can have a positive impact and show that we’re not out here just to arrest people.”
Two recent calls captured his attention.
On a cold evening in February 2020, he was driving on Highway 11 on his way to work. The call was broadcast about a woman who had collapsed at home with no pulse and was not breathing. “When I heard the address, I was literally right there in front of their home and that was sheer luck. I got in there and got her on the floor and she was gone,” Frye vividly recalls. “Her husband said she had had heart issues. She was in full cardiac arrest. I started CPR chest compressions and then got my portable AED and shocked her once, then resumed CPR and I got a pulse.” He says the woman was in her late 60s.
Priority Ambulance EMTs quickly arrived and put her on oxygen. When they took her to Fort Loudon Medical Center her pulse was strong and her blood pressure was stable. A few days later she walked out and came home. “It was very gratifying considering the many times we do CPR and the AEDs and the people don’t make it,” Frye said.
Almost seven months ago, on May 7, a large live oak tree, for no apparent reason, came crashing down at a home in northern Loudon County off Muddy Creek Road. The tree landed atop young Tyson Porcella, 15, who was trapped under the heavy trunk and pronounced dead before deputies could remove the tree.
Frye and Fagiana were among the first responders to arrive.
Tyson was part of a group of Young Life students cleaning up the yard, raising money for projects. “This was not a high-risk situation or anything like that,” Frye said. “The ground was not soaked or wet. There was no wind. For some unknown reason that tree came down.”
The scene was worse than tough for Frye and everyone. “Tyson’s parents and grandparents were there when it happened. All the kids, his buddies, they saw it. It was very upsetting for the family as you can imagine. It was devastating, just awful. It was hard on all of us because there was no quick way to move the tree and get to him.”
Frye, Fagiana and other LCSO officers attended his funeral.
“His death and all that happened really touched me. Tyson was working hard. Seeing the family there, their suffering and knowing how much potential this young man had,” Frye explained, still emotional about it seven months removed. “He was taken at such an early age. We are trained to keep our emotions out of it, but it was very difficult to do it this time.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 865-659-3562.