CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A little mid-morning rain couldn't drive away crowds on a day where a patriot was honored. Frankies Patriot BBQ opened the doors at 11 a.m. and the dining room was jammed within minutes.
“The first victim!” joked a jubilant Toni Gross as she scooped pulled pork onto a plate.
On Monday, the Gross family invited Gold Star mothers to a special luncheon at the restaurant. Dozens of people packed the restaurant where the walls are adorned with the photos of faces lost during war.
One of those faces bears the Gross name.
“This is a very important part of the restaurant,” said Craig Gross, pointing to the photo of a handsome young man in uniform. “I miss him.”
Cpl. Frank Robert Gross was killed in action in 2011. Monday was the seven-year anniversary of his death.
“God gave us a gift when he gave us Cpl. Frank Robert Gross,” said Craig.
Cpl. Gross was serving in Afghanistan out of Fort Hood, Texas. He was a member of the 38th Calvary regiment, 504th Battlefield Brigade. The military vehicle he was riding in swerved to miss what the driver presumed was an explosive. It accidentally ran over another. Cpl. Gross was the only soldier who lost his life that day.
He was 25 years old.
Cpl. Gross played with G.I. Joe toys when he was a young boy. His family, steeped in military tradition, expected him to follow in his family’s footsteps upon reaching service age.
“I’m not a Navy brat. I’m a Navy blessing,” said Toni Gross, whose father served 29 years in the military. “We had no doubt in our minds. Frankie was the poster boy for the Army.”
Governor Rick Scott’s wife, Ann, paid the group a visit to thank them for their sacrifices. Many of the patrons paid their respects to the Grosses.
“The price of entry is high and none of them want to be in that club,” said Jim Rudolph, a longtime customer of Frankies Patriot BBQ. “Every time I drive by the restaurant, I think of Frankie.”
The current location, on the southeast corner of the Ulmerton Road and US-19 intersection, has been open for two years. Toni and Craig started the BBQ business in 2013. American flags are everywhere. So are photos of Frankie. His legacy is respected and remembered by all who enter the restaurant doors.
“We do thank God that we were blessed to have him for 25 years,” said Toni.
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