Gilpin veteran awarded medal after 67 years
By Jodi Weigand
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2012, 11:02 p.m.
Cpl. Ronald Frank had celebrated his 20th birthday just four months before he was seriously injured in World War II when a German plane dropped a bomb in front of his convoy.
"Our driver swerved and our vehicle went over the hill, almost into the river," said Frank, 87, of Gilpin. "Every time we would hit a bump, I would go with it, I would just rise up. But this time I went up and didn't come back down. I flew catty-corner across the truck."
Frank suffered a back injury and severe contusions over most of his body when he was thrown from the vehicle. He later learned that three others in the truck had been killed and the remaining 14 were wounded.
He never sought a Purple Heart, a medal awarded to soldiers injured by enemy fire during combat. At that time, seeking the honor meant the soldier's family was notified, and Frank didn't want his parents to know he was hurt.
More than six decades after the incident, Frank's granddaughter Army Maj. Kim Ferguson, 35, fought back tears as she presented the medal to her "pap" in a surprise ceremony after Sunday services at First Baptist Church in Leechburg.
"I grew up looking at all his medals," said Ferguson, formerly of Allegheny Township, now stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Col. "I would take them out of the box and I would stare at them, and I kept thinking, 'Wow, my grandpap's a hero.' "
She works as a personnel officer in the Army, and her duties include processing awards.
"When I was in Afghanistan, I'm processing all these Purple Hearts, and I started thinking ... why doesn't he have one?"
She started doing research in March 2011 to document that Frank had been injured during combat. She received the medal in the mail last week. She found papers showing he was evacuated from the crash site to a mobile Army hospital in Germany, then transferred by train to another mobile Army hospital, near Cherbourg, France.
Before that he had suffered smaller injuries, when shrapnel hit his right hand and above his left eye. Both times he refused to be sent to the battalion aid station for treatment.
"No way would I take a Purple Heart for a little injury," Frank said. "I wouldn't accept it because of some of the guys I've seen -- they either got killed or they got wounded real, real bad, with their stomachs hanging out, their legs blown off."
Frank still isn't sure he deserves the honor, but said it meant a lot to him that his granddaughter presented the medal to him.
Nino Trunzo, 88, also of Gilpin, a medic who treated Frank at the Army hospital, attended the ceremony. The two had kept in touch since meeting in 1945.
"We went around and we got their pamphlets (in the medic tents) and we found out what happened to them and their information." Trunzo said.
"I remember picking his up and it had Leechburg on it and I asked him if he knew where Vandergrift was, because that's where I was from," Trunzo recalled. "This (honor) is long overdue for him."
Frank was drafted into the Army at age 18 and sent to England, where he joined the 9th Division as an infantryman. In his 2 1/2 years of service, he landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and helped liberate the city of Cherbourg.
In 2010, Frank received the French Legion of Honor medal, the country's most distinguished recognition for soldiers and civilians. He also earned the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Unit Badge.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.