Thursday, June 21, 2007

Frank B. Walkup IV dies 'from injuries sustained in Rashaad Iraq, when an IED detonated near his position during dismounted operations'

Tuesday was an especially difficult day for the father of a Cannon County soldier, who was killed Saturday in Iraq — it would have been his son's 24th birthday.

"It doesn't matter if you're in the military or a civilian, it's tough any way you look at it," said Frank Walkup III, a retired Army Ranger and father to 1st Lt. Frank B. Walkup IV of Woodbury, who died from injuries sustained in an explosion when a device detonated near his patrol operations in Kirkuk.

"Outwardly, it'll appear that I'm dealing with it better than most people would, but my family is such a big part of everything I do," the elder Walkup said. "I talk about my kids and brag on them constantly. I'm afraid I'll shy away from bringing him up."

The fallen soldier, a 2001 graduate of Riverdale High School, was assigned to the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu.

He is survived by his wife and college sweetheart, Sabita Walkup, his parents and nine brothers and sisters.

"He was the oldest, and he helped take care of and raise every one of his brothers and sisters," Walkup said. "We're a close-knit family, and the kids are struggling."

But the family, being so familiar with the Army, knew what their eldest son was up against and the risks involved, and they supported him whole-heartedly.

"Our family considers it an honor to serve our country; we do it freely and openly," his father said.

As a final tribute to the slain soldier, funeral services are tentatively planned for July 4 at Riverside Cemetery in Woodbury.

Following his father's example, the younger Walkup was a devoted member of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps throughout high school.

"He wore a uniform since the ninth grade," his dad said, adding that despite their family's frequent moves, Walkup had no problem making friends because of his outgoing personality.

After graduating from Riverdale, Walkup joined the ROTC program at the University of Tennessee, where he graduated in 2005.

"He was commissioned as an officer the day he graduated," his father said. "He could've picked any position he wanted, and he picked the most dangerous job anyone could have."

He served as a platoon leader in Iraq and was responsible for everything his men did, his father said.

A platoon leader's job is intense and demanding, his father said, because he must have direct contact with all the men.

An embedded reporter with the Christian Science Monitor rode with Walkup's patrol in May, when an improvised explosive device planted underneath their Humvee misfired — sparing the soldiers.

Walkup diffused the tension that day with a joke, the reporter wrote, but several weeks later, his patrol would not be so lucky.

"His men truly loved him and trusted him," his father said. "We've received communications from several of his men and they've all said he did a superb job of leading."

That doesn't surprise the lieutenant's father.

"He was an excellent example to everyone around him. Frank was always a leader," he said. "Our best and our bravest always go out to lead the way for the rest of us."

From the Daily News Journal