As we approach another Memorial Day, it seems fitting to hear from a veteran, who is still living (there aren’t many still living), who loves his country and by the grace of God was not a casualty in WWII. Frank J.Troilo is one of our own. He grew up on Chambers Rd, where his home was attached to the mushroom farm (two doubles) that his Dad had built, and the building is still standing today.
Frank, born in 1923 is 95 years old, living with his daughter, Barbara Proto in West Chester. I actually met Frank in Kennett Square at a fundraiser, where he was supporting his daughter and granddaughter, Kristin Proto in their volunteer roles. He is bright eyed, has a great memory, and tells a spirited story, so I thought he would be a great representative of the greatest generation for this interview.
Frank remembers going to kindergarten in a one-room school house for a short time in Toughkenamon, then went to the Kennett Consolidated School on South Street in 1931. Being a son of a mushroom grower, Frank and his brother put in many hours helping out at the farm. When his father suddenly died of pneumonia at 36 years old, their neighbor, a good friend, Joseph Teti took over the business and it was later purchased by Flavian Basciani.
Frank graduated in 1942 and was drafted into the Army along with other friends from Kennett in March of 1943. He spoke, “It was something we all felt we had to do and we wanted to do our part to help our country.” He remembers his Boot Camp in Columbia, South Carolina where he found out about “chigger bites” in the Pine Barrens.
He was then shipped to Scotland, then Northern Ireland in a town south of Belfast and received 8 months of training in gasoline supply. After D-Day, he was sent to France’s Normandy region and served until General George Patton.
He explained that the gasoline supply companies were the fourth to arrive at a battle site, so his chances of being killed were less than on the front lines. His job was not only to transport tons of gasoline, but to protect the supply from any Germans. He told of one close encounter when he was on guard duty. He held his back up against a building to protect himself from any approaching German. He saw a light in the lower field, which was a signal for a German air attack, and he quickly shot his rifle into the distance and the light went out; no air attack!
Frank’s most stunning story relates to his good decision-making and his faith. After soldiers were killed on the front lines, others were recruited to fill their vacancies. Frank and 8 other Gas Supply Privates were told that they would go to France to serve on the front lines. This was when Frank and a buddy from Media, PA arrived in France. They noticed a sign, asking for volunteers to serve in the administrative offices in Berlin.
With Frank’s commercial course education from Kennett High School, he applied for the job and got it. He ended up serving the rest of his time in Berlin, Germany near the Brantenberg Gate, where Generals Patton and Eisenhower had their headquarters. He tells with a smile, “I even received a salute from General George Patton one time.”
As for Frank’s faith, he admitted he really didn’t know if there was a God when he was in the military. One night on guard duty, he made a list of requests for God to answer. He prays, “If You are really up there, answer my requests.” One of the requests was to be kept alive and brought back to his sweetheart, Hazel Weller, so he could marry her and start a family. Frank continues with his story to tell about how on his honeymoon, he was struck with the deep awareness that all of his requests had been answered. It was at this time, he said he unequivocally knew there was a God and he has been a faith-abiding man from that day on!
Frank came home and his life moved on. Hazel and he had three children, Barbara, Linda and Stephen and 71 years of a loving marriage. Frank wrote a love letter to Hazel for her memorial service in February of 2018.
He summarizes the courage, strength and contribution that our veterans have given to us by being away from their home and family to serve our country--“We maintained our love for one another even through the separation of my 32 months of military service in the Army.”