by WorldTribune Staff, May 27, 2019
Memorial Day “is a time we remember” and those “whom we remember never leave us, and we tell their stories to keep them close,” wrote James S. Robbins in a May 27 column for USA Today.
“Some years ago, I wrote a column about Frankie Sanchez, an Army Specialist-4 from Dodge City, Kansas, who was killed in a firefight in Vietnam on Feb. 23, 1966. His father, Frank, appeared in an ABC News documentary, “A Year in a New Kind of War,” in which he read the telegram he received informing him of Frankie’s death.
Robbins, who served in the George W. Bush administration and is the author of “Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past” is also a Free Press Foundation advisory board member.]
Robbins noted that “in telling the story of the Sanchez family — immigrants who loved and defended their adopted country — I keep them close and their service alive.”
Frankie’s father was one of six brothers. Alvin, the oldest, was an Army infantryman who had served in the Mediterranean theater in World War II. Rudy served as a corpsman in the South Pacific and was severely wounded. Gavino landed at Normandy. Louis was sent home from the service for being color blind and became mayor of Dodge City. Isaac, who was younger, served with the Army in Korea. And Frank Sanchez, who worked on the railroad, was deemed an essential war worker and not allowed to get in the fight. The Sanchez’s were an immigrant family proud of their country and willing to do their part to defend it.
Last year around Memorial Day, Isaac Sanchez, who was deployed in Korea in 1946, finally had a chance to see Frankie’s name on the wall. He came to Washington on an Honor Flight, his first trip ever on an airplane, and I was privileged to accompany him and members of his family as he toured the war memorials on the western end of the National Mall. Isaac was 90 years old and had to use a wheelchair, but was mentally sharp
When word came about his nephew Frankie dying in Vietnam “it just struck,” he said. “It was very hard.” Frankie’s remains were being sent to his wife in Georgia, but his father Frank wanted a memorial in Dodge City. The Defense Department refused, but Kansas elected officials intervened for the family and the coffin was routed through Frankie’s home town.
Frankie was taken to a local funeral home with an honor guard, and the next day there was a church service where hundreds of friends and relatives turned out to say goodbye. Then the coffin was reloaded on the train and sent to Georgia.
Frank Sanchez later went to the funeral home director, Robert Swaim, who had been instrumental in setting everything up, to ask how much he owed. “You don’t owe me anything,” Swaim said. “It’s the least I can do.”
Our last stop during Isaac’s visit was the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Frankie Sanchez is at position 5E68, about five feet up the polished black granite panel. Isaac looked up at Frankie’s name, then shakily pushed himself up from his wheelchair, and with the help of his family, reached up to run his fingers lovingly across Frankie’s name.
At that moment a gentle sprinkle of warm spring rain came down, and everyone present wept. Isaac turned to Frankie’s son, David Joyal, who had been an infant when his father died. “You had a real nice dad, David,” he said.
Isaac Sanchez passed away on March 15th, 2019 in Garden City, Kansas.”