Remembering Lt. Col. Frank Schwarz and the Millions Past and Present


Caption reads: Col. B. Raouls, Ex Off, USAINTS as he congratulates Maj Franklin Schwarz, DCBTI, after presenting him with the Joint Service Commendation Medal, 1964. (Courtesy of Schwarz Family)
Caption reads: Col. B. Raouls, Ex Off, USAINTS as he congratulates Maj Franklin Schwarz, DCBTI, after presenting him with the Joint Service Commendation Medal, 1964. (Courtesy of Schwarz Family)

Each year, on Nov. 11, the United States takes off its hat to those who have served in its military. Veterans Day is a holiday that is often overlooked. But for those who have served, the family members of veterans and many more, it is often a day of quiet remembrance and gratitude. Here is the story of my grandfather, Lt. Col. Frank Schwarz, a man who dedicated most of his life to protecting the freedom of America.

My papa, as he is known in my family, joined the U.S. Army in September 1952. He wanted to have a military career, even though America was in the middle of the Korean War and he knew that entering the Army at that time gave him a good chance of ending up involved in the Korean conflict.

After graduating from Officer Candidate School as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he married my grandmother, and they moved from New Jersey to Kentucky. My grandmother became pregnant with their first child, one of my uncles, in June 1953, and Schwarz was soon deployed to Korea two months later. My uncle was born in March 1954, but Schwarz did not get to see his first child until he returned to the United States, nine months later. After a three-year deployment in Fort Drum, NY, during which two more children were born, the entire family moved to Munich, Germany for another three-year tour.

While in Germany, my grandparents had their fourth child. Schwarz was involved with the Berlin Crisis of 1961 that culminated in the Soviet Union building the wall between East and West Germany. My grandmother said, “It was a very tense time to be in Germany. Almost everyone thought that a war was imminent.” However, my dad’s stories from this time consist of playing on farms and stealing milk from the neighbors.

After Germany, the family was sent to Baltimore in July 1962. Two years after moving to Baltimore, during which time two more kids were added to the family, Schwarz found out that he was going to be deployed to Vietnam. Prior to leaving in August 1964, my grandma found out she was pregnant with their seventh, and final, child.

My youngest aunt was born in January 1965 and my grandpa came back from Vietnam in August 1965. Somehow, my grandmother managed to get through that year alone—first pregnant with six kids for six months, then alone with seven kids for six months, all under age 10. When I asked how she managed, she just laughed.

After returning from his yearlong deployment in Vietnam, the family spent three more years in Baltimore, and then they were transferred to Ft. Shafter, Hawaii for three years. During that time, Schwarz had many extended tours to Vietnam, ranging from two weeks to a month long. He spent his last year in the Army deployed in Virginia, though during this time, my grandparents decided it was best for the family to finally establish a permanent residence in Florida.

My grandpa finally retired from the Army in September 1972 as a lieutenant colonel. Among the many awards and medals he earned were the Legion of Merit and two Meritorious Service Awards.

When I look back on the sacrifices my dad’s family made, I can hardly believe that one family would go through so much. Of the 20 years my grandpa was in the Army, four total years were spent away from his family. In response to my disbelief, my grandmother simply said, “Freedom isn’t free, it must be earned and protected. Your grandpa was a small part of protecting the freedom of all Americans with his service in the Army.”