INDIANAPOLIS — The rest of the world now knows what Brian Spink and Deana Bryant have known their whole lives -- their father is a true American hero.
Frank Spink, a Plainfield resident, was presented with the Silver Star Medal at a special ceremony at Stout Army Air Field ... just 44 years late.
”We’ve always known what a hero he is,” Bryant said. “I’m just so proud today.”
Bryant traveled from her Ohio home to see the special award ceremony. Her brother, Brian Spink, a Brownsburg resident, was also in attendance.
”I’m pretty proud,” Brian Spink said. “I’m just so happy for him.”
Spink was awarded the medal for actions he took against hostile forces in the Republic of Vietnam on June 13, 1968.
”I was on perimeter guard and saw movement,” Frank said.
He warned his company, including Lt. John McHenry.
”He (McHenry) said by the time he got up and turned around I was already out there shooting,” Frank said. “I got hit and he took over.”
He was severely injured by a rocket that exploded in the bunker. But in spite of his injuries, he continued to place suppressive fire on the enemy until he lost consciousness.
After he was evacuated to the command post, Frank gave encouragement to other wounded soldiers. He lost his right arm due to his injuries.
Frank returned home and married his wife, Judy, who died just five years ago.
He grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Washington High School.
”I so wish my mom could have seen this today,” Bryant said with tears in her eyes.
The Spink family has lived in Plainfield since 1978.
”My late wife, I, and our kids moved here years ago,” Frank said.
Frank became a stay-at-home dad to Deana and Brian. He said he really struggled after the war in adjusting to life at home.
”I just kind of kept away from people,” he said. “My wife was working and so I did the chores around the house. There was quite an adjustment period. I took care of the kids while she was at work -- which was kind of fun. My dad always worked nights and I only got to see him on the weekends.”
Brian said he has fond memories of that time with his father.
”You know, it was different,” he said. “Most people’s dads were not at home. But my dad was always so laid back. We just loved him.”
It was determined that because of his personal bravery, aggressiveness, and exemplary devotion to duty that he was to be awarded an accommodation medal in the 1970s.
”I told them to ship it to me in the mail,” he said. “I was not up for big groups and trying to adjust.”
But the paper work for his Silver Star Medal was lost and he never received his accommodation.
Over the years, Frank and his Army buddies stayed in contact. They shared a very special bond.
”When we were over there we just took care of each other,” he said. “We watched out for each other.”
McHenry and several of their fellow servicemen attended the ceremony to see Frank receive the long-overdue medal. And he appreciated their support then and now. He insisted that all of his fellow Vietnam veterans stand up to be recognized during the event.
Frank gave the credit for finally receiving his medal to McHenry and individuals at U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita’s office.
”Anthony Will at Mr. Rokita’s office is a nice guy,” he said. “His office helped to get the recognition.”
Will said he was just doing his job.
”It’s my job to contact the Department of Defense when we learn about things like this,” Will said. “It does take a lot of work.”
He said working with the federal government is not something that’s done quickly.
”I tried to work on it and speed up the process,” he said. “But it can still take six months to a year to get something like this done.”
Rokita said he just about jumped out of his chair the first time he heard the details of Frank’s service and the loss of his Silver Star.
”There was initial outrage, I can tell you that,” Rokita said. “I am glad we were able to correct a wrong. We are so lucky to have Mr. Spink here with us.”
Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger said this was only the second Silver Star Medal he has been given the honor to present.
”The first one was awarded posthumously,” he said “This is the third highest decoration we give in this country.”
Umbarger said he was also pleased that Frank was given the ceremony with all the pomp and circumstance.
”You know, when the Vietnam vets came home, they came home alone,” he said. “We were not there to welcome them. Thank God we learned from our mistakes. Welcome home, my friend.”
The room where the ceremony was held was packed with friends and family, along with several members of the active duty military personnel.
Long-time friend Leslie Lund attended the ceremony and brought her granddaughter, Katya McClure, 5.
”It was so cute,” Lund said. “She said, ‘nice he could get his star. But I think it should have been bigger.’”