Veterans shouldn’t wait to share the stories of their service, said the keynote speaker for the annual community Veterans Day observance.
Lt. Col. Robert Frankosky, the commander of the Georgia Air National Guard 165th Airlift Wing’s maintenance group, recounted at Veterans Park how he heard the stories of veterans from his hometown in New Jersey. There was one local World War II veteran whose hearing was affected, a result of trying to remove explosives off the Remagen bridge. The railroad bridge at Remagen was the last standing crossing of the Rhine as Allied forces pushed deeper into western Germany. He also was at the D-Day landings in Normany and at the U.S. landing at Anzio on the Italian coast.
“His son said, ‘Dad doesn’t talk about that,’” Frankosky said. “And then one day we couldn’t push it off because he wasn’t there. His son said, ‘boy, I wish I had had that talk with my dad.’”
Frankosky also said he asked his uncle one day about his military career. At a family reunion, his uncle talked for two hours.
“He told of his exploits in Europe in World War II, some of them humorous and some of them sad,” Frankosky said.
His cousin, then in his mid-50s and his uncle’s son, was on hand to hear those stories for the first time.
“If had never been there at that moment, he would never been able to pass those on to his kids,” Frankosky said.
The 165th has been a busy unit, and many of its members are now veterans of several overseas assignments and some domestic missions too. The 165th, first activated in 1946, was led initially by a former member of the Flying Tigers, the all-volunteer group of fighter pilots who fought under the command of Claire Chennault for China against Japan.
“Our people have been extremely busy,” Frankosky said. “Over the last 10 years, the majority of them have served at least one tour in the Middle East. Some of them have gone, five, six or seven times. We’ve had people deployed to Antarctica, Poland, Israel. We have had people repatriate remains found in Vietnam and Laos. We have had people in the Horn of Africa. We have been a busy unit.”
Since the 1980s, the 165th has been flying the versatile and venerable C-130 Hercules transport planes. The four-propeller aircraft can get into areas and land on unimproved airstrips bigger planes can’t utilize.
“It often does the dirty job that can’t be done with massive jets that carry more cargo,” Frankosky said.
The nearly 900 personnel of the 165th also will be getting newer C-130s.
“Until recently, it was some of the oldest in the fleet,” Frankosky said of the wing’s complement of aircraft. “Hopefully, by end of the year, we’ll have much newer aircraft.”
Frankosky, a teacher in civilian life, joined the Army in 1984 before transferring to the Air Guard. When he entered the service, his mentors were Vietnam veterans.
“The things I learned to do right came from those people,” he said. “They imparted their knowledge to help me become a better service member and a better officer.”
For the many veterans in attendance, master of ceremonies Lamar Crosby and Rev. Delmons White offered their gratitude for the service of their former comrades in arms.
“Thank you to all who served our nation, in any branch of service, to say we appreciate what you’ve done, we’re grateful for your service and we’ll always honor our veterans for what they mean to our country and to our community,” Crosby said.
Added White: “We can never thank you enough for the courageous men and women who have laid down their lives and who have fought for the freedom of this great country.”
Frankosky said he was glad to see so many young people, in particular Boy Scouts, at the event, and he encouraged them to learn about the nation’s culture and history. He also implored veterans to make sure their stories are passed down to future generations.
“My message to veterans is to please tell your stories,” he said. “Make sure our culture stays strong and part of that culture is your story. Tell your stories to your kids. It doesn’t have to be Bastogne, it doesn’t have to be the Hurtgen Forest, it doesn’t have to be Sicily, it doesn’t have to be Khe Sanh, it doesn’t have to be the Chosin Reservoir, it doesn’t have to be Fallujah. Whatever the story is, tell your kids .It’s important. It’s part of their heritage and it’s part of your legacy.”