Military Monday – Excerpt from “The Replacement”

On May 8, I will release my next book Stories of the Lost, available through my author website. You can pre-order a signed copy today! This is an excerpt of one chapter about Frankie Winkler.

The Family Story

Frank Winkler, 29th Infantry Division

Frank Winkler, 29th Infantry Division

My grandmother told me a story about my cousin Frankie Winkler, saying he enlisted in the Army when he was 19. He had started college but chose to enlist because of the guilt he felt for not fighting. His father, Frank Sr. did not approve of his choice. It was said that Frank Sr. was very protective of his only living son. So protective he wouldn’t let him even ride a bike for fear he would be hurt. Family lore also said Frankie’s uncle, Frank Kokoska, would join the fight and watch over Frankie.

As the story continued, my grandmother said Frankie came ashore on Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 29th Infantry Division. He spoke German and was doing reconnaissance work. I wondered how they would have known he was in reconnaissance.

My grandmother also told me Frankie died on June 24, 1944 of head wounds received on D-Day. A photo appeared in Life Magazine of a soldier sitting on a beach on D-Day with his head wrapped, holding a cigarette in one hand and a pack of smokes in the other. The family to this day swears it is Frankie.

The story continued and grandma told me when Frankie’s remains were returned to Chicago, his mother was too distraught to view them. Instead, Frankie’s uncle and father went to the funeral home. After viewing the remains they did not think it was Frankie. This did not make sense to me. Why would they not have thought the remains sent home were his?

I listened to my grandmother’s story, took notes and left it at that. It was not until my parents European vacation in October 2010 in which answers to my questions began to emerge. My parents visited several American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries. They asked many questions about the war and where to locate information on Frankie’s service. Using the information my parents provided, I spent two years researching his story and discovered many twists and turns. In the end, the story I tell is different from the family lore.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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