Saturday, May 19, 2018

98 Year Old Memories

I think I've spoken about Apache Frank (Red Feather) before.  He's a five foot tall 135 pound World War II veteran who showed up at the VFW and was adopted by our Elks Lodge.  Prince Charming from the Magic Kingdom makes sure he's taken care of and pays all his dues, since his income is ridiculously small ... inflation and all that, I suppose.

Born in Mexico, his family came to the U.S. to escape the Indian Wars.  He lived in and around Fort Huachuca, doing odd jobs like feeding the calvary's horses until he turned 17.  That's when he joined the Army and was sent to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

You never see Frank without an Indian headband underneath his ball cap and a big smile on his face.  His favorite drink is Corona, of course, and his favorite saying Ya Te Hey, a Navajo greeting meaning it is well, can be heard clear across the room.

Over the last year or so, we discovered he was wounded several times, but never received his Purple Heart.  Since he joins us every Tuesday night, we have been picking his brain for information.

It seems while on his way to New Guinea, he was sidetracked in Pearl Harbor.  They stuck him on one of those big guns and he proceeded to shoot planes from the sky.   About that time he received his draft notice in the mail, thus some of his history was lost to the Army.

As we sat at the table talking, he recounted battles and the men who commanded them, along with specific dates, which we were able to corroborate instantly by checking on the internet.  Every single name and date was correct.  Amazing that someone 98 years old could remember all that stuff!!  

He did whatever he was told to do, from being a tail gunner (having never flown in an airplane before) to being a boat captain in the Amphibian Fleet (no experience whatsoever).  There was plenty of hand to hand combat in between, where he received several bayonet wounds.  Lots of it he didn't really want to remember, so we skipped around that part.

His brother was with Ira Hayes on Iwo Jima when they raised the flag in the iconic picture, but was soon killed in action over the next few days.

In the end, we hope he will get a trip to Washington DC in order to receive his Purple Heart.  At least that's what we are shooting for.  By the way, he is also a part of the Veterans Military Funeral organization (made up of mostly Elks members) and he plays taps at every funeral ... on his trumpet.  He's an amazing guy!!


  1. Love stories like that, sure hope he gets his due...

  2. If you get a chance have somebody pull his DD 214 file
    If he qualifies he could also receive Combat wounded veteran metal(s)
    If he slated to receive a Purple Heart you may want to be able to fast track it because of his age,,if not it takes 18 months on average to be Awarded
    If you look on the back Pages of the VFW magazine
    They sometimes have escorted free tours dedicated just for military retired personnel
    Case in point.... if he was a Vietnam veteran and did not have the financial means there is a nonprofit group that will escort him an a medical cared person to the Vietnam wall in Washington all expense for two or three days and return
    I believe that the VFW has a Calendar on the back of their magazine that has reunions for retired veterans,, another good do you done
    Keep in mind there are certain airlines Delta and Alaska air that sometimes forgo the air fee for veterans of foreign war (special) annual reunion
    So if you do something like that check with airline management
    The next time you interview him take a tape recorder and a video recorder
    You can submit it to the Smithsonian Institute archives
    There is a specific historical archives section devoted specifically for veterans but you would have to figure out which section to send it to that would be your phone call,,,you may start with a local high school history section that interview elderly people for the Smithsonian Institute archives
    At 98 Sounds like the old boy is sharp as a tack
    Buy him a Corona 🍺 From all of us

    1. I'll pass on the info Ed ... thank you. It's all Greek to me!! I tried a tape recorder, but he really doesn't like talking about it much. He says he killed a lot of people and he doesn't want to remember that part.


  3. Question,,,,,if he was on his way to New guinea which would've been the Chinese /Sino Japanese 1937/1945 war
    The new guinea campaign started in 1942 to 1945
    And he got a draft notice (the US civilian draft started in September 1940) for the army what military was he in before he got the draft notice ???
    Army navy Air Force Marines

    Approximately 7,000 American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen were killed in the New Guinea campaign.
    Interesting facts

    1. It was a terrible war. He's lucky to have survived!

  4. What an amazing history and even more amazing that he remembers all those facts.

  5. This is an Off topic subject would you please see that it gets to Mr. C's inbox

  6. Great story, hope it all works out for him.

  7. What a wonderful bit of history and a real life gentleman to tell the story. It truly is HIS-STORY isn't it?
    A Purple Heart well deserved, I hope he gets it!

    1. I'm hoping we can get it all down on paper. What an amazing life he has had.