Memorial Day became a national holiday by Congressional Act in 1971 as a designated time for the remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation; men and women Frank England calls the real heroes.
England should know. He served 30 years in the military between the Army and Air Force, and was part of the funeral ceremonies for many of these fallen warriors during his career.
England enlisted while still in college and stayed in reserve units until his graduation from law school. The Tennessee native, who eventually became a captain and served as a judge advocate officer, spent several years volunteering as part of the military honors funeral detail while serving at the Pentagon. At funerals conducted at Arlington National Cemetery, England was the officer who handed the the American flag to surviving mothers, fathers and children after it was removed from the coffin, and folded.
“My career certainly doesn’t live up to some real heroes,” said England, who is general counsel for Savannah River Remediation, the liquid waste contract company for Savannah River Site. “I just hope that in my 30 years in the military and 13 years out here that I made an environment where heroes can thrive and get the important work done.”
His military ties run deep. England’s father and grandfather fought in the two world wars.
“My dad was my example, as was my grandfather,” he said. “My grandfather fought in World War I and my dad joined the Navy at the very end of World War II. It was a family tradition.”
England said Memorial Day is special, not like any other military or veteran-related holiday.
“Armed Services Day is about active duty military and Veterans Day is to honor living veterans. Memorial Day is meant for honoring the real heroes, those who gave their lives,” he said.
As a judge advocate officer, England’s assignments included several tours of duty in the Pentagon, as one of the highest ranked legal officers on the West Coast, and at a special weapons depot in Germany.
During his assignment in Germany, England’s unit handled Pershing II missile systems, intercontinental ballistics capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
“While I was there, one of the missiles had static electricity ignite the solid fuel engine and it killed several soldiers. The missile went over the fence into German territory and landed on an empty car,” he said.
That incident occurred Jan. 11, 1985. Three American soldiers were killed.
Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org