Saturday, May 16, 2009

Frank Starr, decorated WW II veteran, dies

May 14, 2009, 4:00 pm, Frank Starr breathed his last and passed into glory. I last saw Frank the evening before he died. I prayed with him, and he gripped my hand and held on, shaking it with that tremulous shaking so characteristic of those suffering with Parkinson's Disease. A faithful friend who was with Frank and his dear wife Minda when Frank died, told how Minda leaned close and said, "Frank, I love you." Frank's eyes opened for an instant, filled with tears, and moments later he took his last breath. Imagine his joy in the next instant: Glory! Tears wiped away! Pleasures at God's right hand forevermore!

Frank was born in Seattle, WA, March 3, 1919. He served two combat tours in Europe during WW II after entering the army at Ft. Lewis, WA in the Hq Btry 376th Parachute FA (I'm taking this directly from his military paperwork). According to his record and to pieces of stories he has told me over the years, he served on a tank crew, as a heavy machine gunner, and as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. He was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds sustained September 17, 1944 in Holland (see account below), earned four Bronze Service Stars, a Bronze Service Arrowhead, and other medals. Frank fought in many battles, including the battles of Rome-Arno, Rhineland, Ardennes, and battles in Central Europe.

Most of all, Frank was a humble Christian, who loved the Word of God, faithful preaching, and being in the Lord's House and worshiping with his church family. I'll never forget the first time he used the sound devices provided for those who are hard of hearing. He was so astonished with all he was suddenly able to hear of the preaching that he burst out talking right in the middle of the sermon. Imagine his joy and wonder at what he now sees and hears and understands in glory! "Blessed in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints."

Excerpt on Frank Starr from STAND FAST In the Way of Truth:

What you miss

Though an old man may go home from church as lonely as he came, the one who really loses when you ignore elderly folks--is you. Frank Starr is eighty-seven years old, hard of hearing, and he likes to shake hands. Because Frank has Parkinson’s Disease his prolonged handshakes really shake. Frank also loses his train of thought and breaks off for long stretches looking at you with his watery eyes—still holding your hand. Young men get uncomfortable holding the flinching hand of a silent old man.

One day after a sermon on dying, I grasped Frank’s hand and settled in for one of our visits. Seemingly out of the blue, haltingly, he began talking about the war.

“I jumped into Holland,” he said, his hand grasping mine and tugging me toward him.

“In the war?” I asked. He nodded. “Were the Germans there?”

After looking at me for a moment, he replied, “Yes.”

“Were you afraid?” I asked.

“No,” he said simply, as if it were an irrelevant question.

“Were the Germans shooting at you?”

Again he paused, looking at me with his large watery eyes. “They shot down the plane ahead of ours.”

“Was it a fighter plane?”

“No,” he replied. Still he gripped my hand. Another long silence. “It was full of soldiers,” he continued at last, “paratroopers, like me.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I felt like he was telling me something intensely important. “Did you have an M-1 Garand?” It was a silly thing to ask, but it was all that came to mind.

“An M-1? No, it was a small one.”

After another long pause, he continued. “The Dutch people were dancing all around us.” Another pause. “They were so happy, they were dancing. I could hardly get clear of my parachute.”

“But the Germans were nearby,” I said. “They’d just shot down the other plane. Weren’t you afraid they’d shoot you?”

He looked at me as if across a divide over which I could not pass. “No,” he said. “I was a soldier.”

The next Sunday his wife handed me a large envelope. I opened it and unfolded yellowed newspaper clippings from the 1940s and Frank’s service record. He had served in the 82nd Airborne Division and had fought in many major battles of the European theatre. September 17, 1944 he was wounded in Holland and decorated for it.

After the worship service, Frank picked up the story and told how he’d not been able to hear so well ever since serving for a time in a tank. He tried to explain just how loud things were when they fired the tank, and how the recoil propelled every man right off his seat. I’d seen his service record and knew that he’d earned a Purple Heart and other medals. I asked Frank about his medals.

“Medals?” he said. “Don’t remember that,” he concluded simply.

Believe me, you are the one who loses when you ignore old men, when you refuse to obey God’s command to show respect to the elderly, when you are so wrapped up in your petty teenage world that you have no time to be transported back in history, when you’re so enslaved to artificial thrills that you have little interest in being enlarged by hearing an eyewitness give you a peek at what World War II was really like...

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