Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Frank Walkup remembered

Because of his top ranking, 1st Lt. Frank B. Walkup IV could have chosen most any assignment with the U.S. Army but chose to fight in Iraq.

His father, Frank B. Walkup III, said his son explained his decision this way.

“Only the best get to be here,” the son told his father. “I’m a warrior, not someone who sits in an office.”

Lt. Walkup so believed in protecting the U.S. from terrorists that he sacrificed his own life.

The 23-year-old, a 2001 Riverdale High School graduate, died when an improvised explosive device detonated while he patrolled June 16 in Rashaad, Iraq. He served as a platoon leader in the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment based in Hawaii.

Funeral services are scheduled tentatively at10 a.m. July 4th at Woodbury Funeral Home in Woodbury.

He will be buried just over the hill from his family’s home at Riverside Cemetery.

“We’ll have him close to home,” his father said with sadness in his voice.

Survivors include parents Frank and Mitzi Walkup, mother, Melissa Oaks of Memphis, six brothers and two sisters, and his wife, Sabita, who lives in Hawaii.

His wife is comforted from spouses of other soldiers and her family. She will join the Walkups soon for the funeral services.

The father reminisced about his eldest son last week at his home while friends, co-workers from his Titan Gate and Fence job visited and his children and their friends played outside.

He felt blessed his son survived to serve in Iraq.

“We almost lost him twice before he was two years old,” Walkup said.

His son was born without a soft spot in his head, requiring major surgery when he was six months old.

His body stopped producing platelets, causing a serious form of anemia when he was 1-1/2 years old.

Fortunately, they lived in Memphis and sought treatment at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He went into full remission with no medical explanation, becoming at that time the first child to survive.

As a child, his son was very active and outgoing with a bright personality. Because the elder Walkup was in the military, the family lived in Germany, Oklahoma and Louisiana before settling in Tennessee.

“He grew up with me in the military,” Walkup said, explaining his father, grandfathers and uncles all served in the armed services. “It’s like a natural progression. They do it because they’re called to do it.”

At Riverdale High School, Walkup spent four years in ROTC. He spent an additional four years in the ROTC program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the U.S.’s oldest ROTC program, before graduating in 2005. He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant on graduation day.

While sorting through photographs after his son’s death, Walkup realized his son wore an Army uniform for 10 years “training to be what he was.”

Ironically, Walkup’s ROTC instructor Sgt. Maj. Raymond Bohrer, who retires Saturday, was unpacking his belongings from school, when he found Walkup’s photograph. Moments later, he received a telephone call informing him about his former student’s death.

“He stood out above all,” Bohrer remembered. “He was always willing to help others.”

Walkup always talked about the military as a career.

“I don’t say this too often, but he was a natural leader,” Bohrer said. “He’ll be missed.”

After he graduated and Bohrer transferred to Blackman High School, Walkup stopped by to visit.

“He is my first cadet I’ve ever lost,” Bohrer said sadly.

Before being commissioned, Walkup and his son discussed his options.

“I thought I had him convinced to go into the Corps of Engineers,” Walkup said with a touch of humor knowing that wasn’t his son’s desire. “He intended his entire life to be in the military and be an officer.

We knew from the time he graduated college he was going to Iraq. He went willingly.”

The younger Walkup completed Ranger, airborne and infantry schools and the Basic Officers Training Course. He deployed to Iraq in August where he commanded a platoon of young men assigned to maintain security in Kirkuk and Rashaad in northern Iraq.

Because he was stationed in a remote area, he couldn’t call home very much. When he did call, he often asked about his family wanting updates on what he had missed.

His parents read a story about him recently in the Christian Science Monitor newspaper. Reporter Howard Lefranchi spent seven hours with Walkup in May.

In his story, Lefranchi quoted Lt. Walkup.

“It’s like fighting ghosts out here,” says Lt. Walkup. “We have a huge area to cover and you may not see that much going on, but we have proof enough that they’re out there.”

The elder Walkup said his son’s primary responsibility was patrolling for insurgents. Dangers were hidden potentially everywhere. The insurgents dressed the same way as “the good guys.”

His son sent the family pictures where he posed with Iraqi children. He flocked to the kids.

Walkup last talked to his son about two weeks before his death.

“He sounded down, distracted,” Walkup recalled. “They were beginning to feel politicians didn’t support them.”

Although the Shiites and Sunnis are fighting each other, they are a “true enemy” of the U.S., the father said. Both father and son believed if the U.S. doesn’t fight them on their home soil, they would come to the U.S.

“He believed in what he was doing,” the father said of his son. “The country deserves to be saved from that type of enemy.”

Soldiers who are fighting in Iraq don’t hear about the support from citizens, the father said. Americans should support the soldiers fighting for them. If the soldiers weren’t fighting for America, the Iraqis would turn off the oil, crippling the U.S. Or they would attack the U.S., he said.

“We’ve got to maintain control of that area,” Walkup said.

Soldiers must know America supports them and the war effort, he believes.

But the family has received countless support from their friends in Rutherford and Cannon counties who have offered condolences.

“The first couple of days we were so devastated it was hard to breathe,” Walkup said.

He takes comfort in knowing his son knew the dangers he faced.

“He didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him because he was in the Army,” Walkup explained. “Soldiers don’t necessarily want to go to war but it’s their job and duties to protect the U.S. We have to keep that place honest.”

From the Murfreesboro Post

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