Joseph Frank, an Army veteran of the Vietnam conflict and only surviving member of the inaugural class, said he was honored to be among the first set of inductees.
“I’ve received a lot of awards over the years, and this one might mean the most to me,” Frank told The Missouri Times. “This is for Missouri veterans and families, and that’s important. Veterans do a lot for their communities and their country, and there are so many in Missouri who deserve to be recognized like this. I’m glad there will be more opportunities to recognize them.”
Frank, a native of Sunset Hills, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, pivoting to public service after an injury from a land mine explosion ended his military career. Frank founded the Crestwood Memorial American Legion Post in 1979 which was later renamed in honor of his father. In 1996, he was elected national commander of the American Legion where he served a one-year term. He resides in St. Louis.
Retired U.S. Airforce Major General Cassie Strom, a board member for the organization, said the event was a way to honor Missouri’s wide array of veterans and their families.
“It’s hard to put anything together in the year of COVID, but it’s so exciting,” Strom said. “There are so many great people in the state of Missouri who continue to serve in their communities, and this class is so representative of the type of people we have in Missouri — from humble workers to President of the United States.”
Three other Missouri veterans were inducted into the inaugural class:
Harry S. Truman served in the Missouri National Guard as a captain and was federalized and deployed to France at the start of World War I. Truman went on to serve as a U.S. senator, vice president, and finally president. Truman died in 1972. The award was accepted on his behalf by the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
Ophelia Owens served as a Marine in Vietnam for two years before moving to St. Louis with her husband, who was also in the military. After her service overseas, Owens worked with American Legion Post 404, a post composed entirely of women. There, she volunteered as an honor guard for more than 400 military funerals in the St. Louis area. Owens died in April. Her daughter Suzanne Brueggeman received the award on her behalf.
Brydon Ross, of Kennett, served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. After his military service, Ross turned to public service in his community, serving in numerous volunteer positions and working as Dunklin County’s circuit court clerk from 1946 until his death in 1984. His son David Ross received the award on his behalf.
The Missouri Veterans’ Hall of Fame was established in 2019 by Strom and other veterans from across the state.