Today w honor men and women whose lives were taken or ruined by our wars.

Monday, 5/30/16

Today, as we remember those who gave their lives for their country, I choose to remember my brother Frank. Even though he didn’t lose his life in World War Two, he certainly lost his way. He was twelve years older than me, and this July he would have been a hundred.

With his four sisters, he grew up in a home where any curse word or immoral activity were never mentioned. If the Greek course in our St. Louis Minor Seminary hadn’t been so hard, Frank instead of me would have become the priest in our family. As it was, he spent his teens and early twenties with warehouse jobs that didn’t earn him enough to date any of my sisters’ perky girlfriends.

Drafted into a California boot camp in 1942, Frank began two years of writing wonderful daily letters that had us personally knowing each of the guys he was with. In 1943 he was part of the invasion of north Africa. In 1944 he was part of the invasion of southern France. Later that year, as a master sergeant, he was made provost marshal of a town in Alsace Lorraine.

Frank was posted to that town to stop the black market, but he became the black market. For a pack of Camels a soldier could get just anything he wanted. It left Frank unfit for settling back with a family where “a curse word or any immoral activity were never mentioned.”  

The evening Frank returned to us, he bolted our party; and when his buddies brought him back drunk at One A.M. he sprawled atop the dining room table. With his being too big to lift, I had to slide him and mother’s lace table cloth onto the floor.

After a dozen years of minor disasters, Frank convinced our Dad that if he would straighten out if he went to California. I didn’t believe him, but Dad financed the trip. Out there, Frank went on A-A, making a success of the last  seventeen years of his life.

When Frank died thirty years ago I got word of a memorial service scheduled for him at an A-A club forty miles east of Los Angeles, so I flew out there. I was delighted with a priest friend of mine who drove out from L.A. on seeing a notice in the paper. He is another Frank, Frank Mannion.

Frank Mannion and I, in our neat priest’s suits, didn’t conduct the service. We just sat there listing to a long string of men and women whom Frank had rescued from ruined lives. Each of them said, “Frank has just always been there for me.”.

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