Remembering our dads - two military heros

Steve and I share something rare. Both our dad’s are considered casualties of World War II. Steve’s dad, Donald Collins was a bombardier in a B-17. His plane was shot down over the Adriatic Sea in 1944. My dad, Herbert Spencer Frank was seriously wounded in France just after D-Day. He passed away 45 years later. Cause of death was listed as war-related injuries. My mother received a letter from President George Walker Bush on his passing thanking her for his service. On this Memorial Day, we honor our dads.

A tribute to Herbert S. Frank on Memorial Day

Herb  Frank 1942

Herb Frank 1942

Herb Frank was 35 years old the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked. A day President Franklin D. Roosevelt told us “would live in infamy”. My dad didn’t have to go to war. He was past the draft age, but he was a man of conviction and action and he believed that Hitler needed to be stopped. His ob was to run wires to make field communications possible. He arrived in Africa in 1942 and made it through the campaigns there and Italy before being hit by a grenade in France, the day after D-Day. Two relatively unscathed years and then… He lost his leg from these injuries and it completely changed his life.

Herb Frank on crutches 1945

Herb Frank on crutches 1945

This former semi-professional football player would, from that day on, find simple walking a challenge. Prosthetics in those days lacked the sophistication of the ones today that allow amputees to do things like ski and run. They were made of wood in the beginning, later on, plastics and they were very uncomfortable. But the worst was the phantom pains caused by nerve endings that didn’t know that half the leg was gone. The pains were excruciating. They affected his entire life until finally, it even became impossible for him to even work. His 75% disability was reclassified to 100%. But, this didn’t stop him from being active when he could. He was an amazing man. There is a humorous side to this. One day, we were walking down the street in New York City, where we lived. All of a sudden, the foot fell off my father’s artificial leg. I wish I had photos of the looks on people’s faces as the foot sat on the sidewalk a few feet behind my dad. Priceless! Losing his leg changed my father’s life, but he was a survivor and this war casualty took over 45 years to cry, “Uncle”. I have half a life-time of memories. Here’s to you, Herbert S. Frank, on the 25th Memorial Day since you’ve passed on. We mss you.

A Tribute to Donald Collins and Walt Ahrens

Don and Virginia Collins 1944

Don and Virginia Collins 1944

I never knew my dad, Donald Collins, because he died before I was born. In November of 1944 his B-24 was shot down over the Adriatic. He was the bombardier on the mission. None of the officers on the plane survived. He was barely 21 years old. Their plane was found 13 years later during a search for another downed plane. It seems like such a shame to lose a young man who had barely begun to experience adulthood. Throughout my life I have wondered what he would have been like if I could have known him. Thank you for your sacrifice; you gave everything you could. The sadness of your passing affected your parents (my grandparents), your sisters and the young widow you left behind. Although I never knew you in the flesh, I did get to know you through the reminiscences of my mother, aunts and grandparents.

I did have a dad growing up because my mother remarried before I was two years old. Walt Ahrens lived into his 60s. Among the things I knew was that he served during the Battle of the Bulge and the taking of the Bridge at Remagen.  He wouldn’t talk about his wartime experiences, but I know they stayed with him all of his life. Today they might say he had post traumatic stress syndrome. He served bravely and never during his life complained of the sacrifices he made. Thank you, Dad (the one I knew in the flesh) for your service to our country.

We remember these three men today. Who are you remembering?





8 Responses to “Remembering our dads - two military heros”

  1. Mick Ahrens
    May 26, 2019 at 6:05 pm #

    Thanks Steve & Billie for these great stories of the men who helped shape your lives!
    Love Mick

    • Billie Frank
      May 27, 2019 at 8:02 am #

      They were great men, Mick. Wish we’d had a photo of Walt to share.

  2. Gil Garduno
    May 27, 2019 at 5:17 am #

    Wonderful tribute! Your dad’s, like mine, we’re truly part of the greatest generation.

    • Billie Frank
      May 27, 2019 at 8:03 am #

      Thanks, Gil. As I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting you, did not know you’re my generation. I learn something new every day.

  3. Lisa @chickybus
    November 11, 2019 at 9:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this; it was really touching because of how your brought it to life with your words and the photos. I got teary-eyed reading it. They both sound like great men-what a wonderful tribute!

    • Billie Frank
      November 11, 2019 at 9:54 pm #

      Thanks, Lisa. Sadly, Steve never got to know his dad- he was so young when he died. My dad was an amazing, though difficult man- but with the pain and suffering he had to deal with every day, it’s understandable. There are so many amazing war stories out there.

  4. Suzanne Fluhr
    November 12, 2019 at 12:09 pm #

    As children of “the Greatest Generation”, many Baby Boomers were raised in families affected by the Depression and World War II. It mostly wasn’t evident on the surface day in and day out, but the ghosts of deprivation, trauma, pain and suffering were there.

    • Billie Frank
      November 14, 2019 at 4:41 pm #

      Amen, Suzanne! My mother used to amass toilet paper. At one point she have

      rolls. I can only think that it had something to do with the depression. My parents also never bought a house- they were always debt-free- cars were paid for by cash. The never owe on anything was also a remnant of the depression. And then there was the war….

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