Sunday, March 29, 2009

RIP - Frankie Toner, USMMA Class of 2006

As the father of a eighteen year old son, I have a hard time coming to terms with the potential loss of anyone's son. The article below from the Ventura County Star was published today on line about the death of LT Frankie Toner, USNR a 2006 graduate of the USMMA who was serving in Afghanistan. I noted from the article that LT Toner had requested he be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It is clear from the facebook group in his memory that he was a living embodiment of the Academy's motto Acta Non Verba. I believe the rest can probably best be communicated without further comment by the article. His family and friends are in my prayers and thoughts today.

Westlake graduate killed in war zone
Navy officer reported shot in Afghanistan
By Scott Hadly (Contact) Sunday, March 29, 2009

He was set to come home Wednesday on leave, but Frankie Toner — a former homecoming king at Westlake High School serving as a Navy lieutenant in Afghanistan — never made it. An Afghan insurgent dressed as a soldier shot and killed Toner, 26, on Friday at a base in northern Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense reported Saturday.

He was the fifth military person from Ventura County to be killed in Afghanistan and the 23rd overall to die there or in Iraq. In all, at least 599 U.S. service members have died in and around Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.

“We were all notified (Friday),” Toner’s aunt, Linda Moosekian of Newbury Park, said Saturday. “We weren’t given all the details, though. The saddest part is that he was coming home on leave Wednesday.”

The insurgent — posing as an Afghan National Army soldier — also killed Navy nurse Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon and wounded another U.S. service member before taking his own life, according to U.S. military spokesman Col. Greg Julian. The military initially reported the killer as being an Afghan soldier. The incident prompted condolences from Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak. He said he was “saddened and deeply regretful this tragedy occurred” and that the incident was under full investigation.

Toner, a 2001 graduate of Westlake High and a star running back for its championship football team, had been in Afghanistan for five months. He was scheduled to return this week to see wife Brooke and the rest of his family, his aunt said. Although he attended the Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island and served in the Navy as a garrison engineer, he later became part of blended U.S. military units being used to train Afghan soldiers. “They called it the ‘Narvy,’” his aunt said. Toner, attached to the Combined Security Transition Command, liked the job. He was stationed at Camp Spann, a base in Mazar-e-Sharif and named after Johnny Spann, a CIA officer killed in 2001 during a prison uprising there. The base has a combat training detachment and tactical operations center and is used to coordinate some humanitarian assistance operations in the area. Toner enjoyed his interactions with the Afghan soldiers, even trying to teach them baseball, his aunt said. “He’d send us these videos and it was kind of funny, because they thought you were supposed to hit people with the ball,” she said. In one of his last e-mails to his family, Toner included some videos and pictures of him working with Afghan soldiers. He obscured one man’s identity, because he was worried about the Afghan’s safety. He finished up his note by saying, “There are still hundreds of recruits for both the police and army, almost on a weekly basis. This shows the insurgents are not having as much impact on the local communities.”

Toner and his wife had actually come home for a visit in the fall and stood on the sidelines for a football game, said his former Westlake football coach, Jim Benkert. “He was so proud of her; I think he wanted everyone to see her,” Benkert said. His decision to attend the Merchant Marine Academy had been partly about football. He got an opportunity to play for the academy’s team.
“He wanted to continue to play,” Benkert said. “He was really proud to be a Merchant Marine and proud to be a warrior.” The team has other alumni serving overseas, Benkert said, and former players remain fairly tight. In fact, he got the news about Toner from a former player.
“I heard a rumor, and I called his aunt, hoping it was just a rumor, but she confirmed it,” he said Saturday. Benkert remembered the letter of recommendation he sent to the Merchant Marine Academy and read the last paragraph. “He was one of the best our society has to offer,” Benkert said solemnly. “He is, he was, one of those special kids who come around once in a lifetime.”

Toner requested to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to his wife, his survivors include his father and stepmother, Frank and Sharon Toner; his mother, Becky Toner; a sister, Amanda; and brothers, John and Michael.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

1 comment:

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