On July 16, 2011, the nation lost a powerful and valuable resource. Francis J. "Frank" Henry died after a lifetime of service, the majority of which was non-typical, and totally behind the scenes.
His standard service comprised WWII service, when he landed at Normandy on D-Day with the chemical corps, more about that later. But what was amazing, was his dedication to the members of the armed services for over 40 years through support in the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Air Force Association. One of his convictions was to help military members in the sometimes irrational, arcane and always bureaucratic organizations to get official records corrected. As one of the recipients of his efforts, I can state that he literally saved my Air Force career, and I am far from alone. When he was made aware of an injustice, he was relentless. Sometimes, as in my case, he was even more dedicated than the member. As the years turned into decades, there became hundreds and then thousands of servicemembers who owe their benefits, awards or careers him.
My first contact with Mr. Henry came in the early 80s, as the months turned into years, I became increasingly impressed (and appreciative) by his dedication and his refusal to give up. Sometime in the mid 90s, on a trip to DC, I wanted to meet the man behind the myth. This would be the first of three meetings I had, that last being after he was retired in 2006 with his lovely wife in Arizona.
His wife related that through the years, when we was representing a particularly difficult case, he would wake up in the middle of the night with an inspiration on an approach (or re-approach, or re-re-approach). Even the various heads of Board of Corrections, in sometimes adversarial relationships, would laud him on his abilities and presentations. It would be years later when I found out that his relentless pursuit of justice was responsible for the awarding of a Medal of Honor to Anthony Casamento in 1980. He was even invited to the White House by President Carter for the presentation.
Maybe it was these qualities that led his chemical company to be almost instantaneously re-designated to a mortar company and spend 80 consecutive days after D-Day in support of the infantry - for which they were awarded a citation from the commanding general and that led him to get promoted early to sergeant in 1944. But I prefer to highlight that when the Nazis finally surrendered in France, the german admiral chose Sgt. Henry to hand over his sword.
Frank Henry lived the motto "to care for him who shall have borne the battle." He will be sorely missed. Well done, good and faithful servant.