OLDSMAR, Fla — In place of beaches and barbecues, Craig and Toni Gross spend their Memorial Days at the Veterans Memorial Park near their home.
“For families of the fallen, every day is Memorial Day,” Toni Gross said, staring at her son’s name etched in stone. “Before Frank, we didn’t realize the solemnness of this holiday, but now we do.”
Even stronger than stone was Frank ‘Frankie’ Gross’ call to serve from the very start.
“Frank was bound and determined to go into the Army,” Toni Gross said, recalling the 150 or G.I. Joe's that were usually scattered around the house when he was younger.
Service also happened to be a family tradition.
"My father served in the Navy for 29 years and Craig's father served in the Army reserves for 30 years,” she said. “Frank loved his grandparents and wanted to follow in his grandparents' footsteps."
Frank enlisted in 2011 at the age of 25. He only made it a few weeks into his deployment in Afghanistan before he was killed by a roadside improvised explosive device. He was the only one in the convoy who didn’t survive.
“The thing about a soldier being killed in action, he represents his nation, he represents the patriotism, the honor, the sacrifice,” said Craig Gross, Frank’s father.
It’s a sacrifice that’s now memorialized, alongside the names of legacies of so many others who’ve fallen for all of us.
"To us it’s a blessing to see other families gathered together around the pool or going to the beach or going on picnics," Toni Gross said. "But we also want people to please remember the reason for Memorial Day.”
Frank Gross is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where his grandparents also are buried.
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