Honoring a Hicksville Vet
Bill Frank grew up in Hicksville. I have known him for about 40 years. Bill served in Vietnam and has helped veterans who served not only in WWII but also through the most recent wars and conflicts.
Bill moved to Hicksville from Island Park in 1959. His family rented a house at 31 Libby Ave, behind Sears. Bill attended Hicksville Junior High for 7th and 8th grades. During those two years, he met my husband, Phil. The two then attended Chaminade High School in Mineola. At the end of Bill’sSenior year, his parents moved to upstate New York. Bill stayed with my husband’s family and prepared to attend Niagara University. During that time, Bill worked at Kresge’s in Mid-Island Plaza.
Niagara University and ROTC
After graduation from Chaminade in 1965, Bill attended Niagara University in Lewiston, NY, where he roomed with my husband Phil all four years. There, he studied accounting and took part in ROTC. In 1967, he had a choice: he could opt out of ROTC or continue and enter the military as an officer after graduation. Bill was sure his number would eventually be up, draft number that is, so he decided to continue with ROTC. Since Bill decided to continue with ROTC, he attended an ROTC Summer Boot Camp between his Junior and Senior years. While there, he became friends with another ROTC cadet from a rival school who happened to be in the same platoon as Bill. They made a pact that they would make sure that their platoon would be the best and would support whoever was platoon leader. They did such a good job that they both received the Distinguished Military Student Award, which allowed them to pick where they wanted to serve. Bill and the other student both picked the Finance Corps.
Bill was sent to Vietnam. He worked out of the Finance Office in Cam Ranh Bay as the disbursing officer. Bill was responsible for making sure that the troopswere paid. Oddly enough, the officer he sent his requests to was the other ROTC cadet from his Summer Boot Camp days who happened to be stationed in Saigon.
Bill was stationed in Cam Ranh Bay before being sent to Nha Trang to run the Finance Office there. But before he left Cam Ranh Bay, on August 25, 1971, he experienced the scariest day of his service when an ammunition dump was blown up. (To read more about the blast: https://www.newspapers.com/article/enterprise-journal-315-aug-25-1971/35029849/)
Bill felt fortunate to be in the Finance Office. They didn’t think of themselves as regular Army. Usually, when someone asks Bill what movie about Vietnam most closely depicts his experience, he replies, “None. My experience felt more like the movie M*A*S*H.” Bill told me that when someone would leave and return to the “Real World” (U.S.), they would have parties that included steak and wine. “It was nice sending them back to the real world that way.” Bill even remembers the finance department saying,
“Ours is not to do or die, but to add, subtract, and multiply.”
Back to the "Real World" and Giving Back
When Bill returned to the “Real World,” he resumed working at a Top 8 accounting firm in Buffalo. He then interviewed for a management job with the State of New York Department of Taxation's Audit Division and got the job. He worked for the State of NY in the Albany area until 2007, when he retired.
From 2010 until his retirement in 2023, Bill worked for the Schenectady County Veterans Service Agency. Bill helped veterans from WWII through the most recent wars and conflicts. 80% of his time was spent filing claims for Service Connected Disability Payments. He also helped to acquire service records to help veterans qualify for burial in Veterans Memorial Cemeteries, as well as helping spouses file claims for pensions to help with senior living expenses. Bill mentioned that pensions have actually been around since the Civil War. It’s a low-income benefit the VA pays. Bill found that the WWII vets didn’t want to take the benefits because they felt that it took away from other veterans.
“Working with the Veterans Agency was very rewarding.” Unfortunately, many of the Vets who came in had PTSD. Bill found that when someone came in and found out he was a vet, they felt more comfortable talking to him. Even after he retired, he was still getting called by some of his clients.
Remembering Our Vets
Bill is a champion for the Vietnam Vets and works to get them the recognition they deserve. Bill co-chaired the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee with a Schenectady County Legislator, Holly Vellano. The committee worked to erect a Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Campus of SUNY Schenectady. The ceremony took place in January of 2022. It honors 2700 Vietnam veterans who call Schenectady County home.
Bill was also on the committee to erect a Veterans Memorial plaque at Niagara University. This plaque was put up in June of 2022. Bill’s
graduating class, the class of 1969, had 141 members serve. Sixty-seven of them were commissioned 2nd lieutenants upon graduation. The 141 members were the highest number of class graduates serving since the class of 1946. Bill's grandchildren posed for a picture before the plaque, pointing out his name. One of the members of his class, Joe Sheridan, actually wrote a book about the war, "Angel in the Cockpit." Bill is featured in a chapter in the book, Honor Thy Brothers: The Fight Against Communism, by Suzanne Dietz.
Bill doesn’t consider himself a hero because he wasn’t in a firefight or foxhole. I disagree. As far as I am concerned, he is. Bill Frank has been an advocate for veterans, especially the Vietnam Vets who never got the recognition they deserved.
Bill Frank lives in upstate New York with his wife Joanne, who was a childhood friend. They lost track of each other and reconnected through a mutual friend. They have been married for 45 years. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.