- Honorary Marine-Former Sailor Earns New Title (video)
One AMAZING Man
Written By: Todd M. Parisi, First Sergeant,
United States Marine Corps
May 2006 in Middletown, Rhode Island
"It is huge; it is gigantic and it is indeed one of the greatest, selfless acts of kindness and generosity that I have ever seen or heard of in my 20 years of service in the United States Marine Corps. I am honored to know this fine gentleman; I am proud to be called his friend, and I will treasure for all of time each and every opportunity to speak or spend time with him. In my eyes, he is the epitome of what we should all strive to be."
I recently received a telephone call while in New Hampshire from a gentleman by the name of Frank DeAngelis. He was inquiring about the awards rated by a young Marine named Corporal Brian Robert St. Germain who died when his 7-ton truck rolled during a flash flood while serving in Iraq. It took me a few moments to get my bearing on this gentleman, as he was set on building a shadow box for the family of this young fallen Marine.
I was rather taken aback by that and offered Frank any help that I could to get him the answers he needed to make this happen. I soon hung up the telephone and pondered a bit more about this unique gentleman whom I had never met on the other side of the phone. I thought to myself, what type of person would make a shadow box for someone he had never met? This person must be someone selfless, someone very special, unique and kind. He must be a generous person in doing something like this and never to ask for a penny. Not only did Frank build this shadow box for Brian St. Germain, he has made hundreds, many for the original Band of Brothers of Easy Company of the 506th. Since he has started, he has made over six hundred-shadow boxes, to be exact over the past 25 years. I suspect he has made even more than that, and he has never taken a cent for this phenomenally kind and generous offering. The shadow boxes that Frank makes are not your average shadow box. He does his research and puts every ounce of his attention into making the shadow box a living memorial to the fallen, or an amazing dedication to a veteran.
I decided I just had to meet Frank and Elizabeth, so in my truck and off south I went to New Jersey. I nervously approached Frank’s front door, and when he came to the door and shook my hand, I felt like I had known him for years. I cannot explain it; it was in his eyes, his smile and his handshake-he just made me feel so comfortable, welcomed and important. I had never met this gentleman and there was absolutely no awkward moments, no lingering pauses; we just communicated and enjoyed each others company. WOW! What a day.
I wondered what could make a man like Frank tick. After visiting his home and meeting his dear Elizabeth, my questions were no more. Elizabeth is one of the most beautiful and kind ladies that I have ever had the distinguished pleasure of meeting. You can easily see the sunshine in her the second you meet her. These two wonderful people have been married for over 52 years; their example to us all are many, and should not just be noted, but emulated.
Now this incredible man has himself served in the Pacific theater during the “Great War. He served his country in the U.S. Navy while the world was at war and did so at 16 years old. In the beginning, Frank served on a mine layer and then transferred to an old Destroyer that was converted to a troop transport for Marines and participated in many amphibious operations to include the Marshall Islands, the Gilberts, the Marianas, Saipan and Okinawa, WOW! Frank has honorably and nobly served his country in a time of war in the Navy; he also is an honorary member of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the original Band of Brothers, a spectacular consolidation of great Americans. However; even with all of this, he loves the Marines and the Marines love him. Quite honestly he is deeply embraced and endeared by all.
Frank gained his notoriety from making shadow boxes, but the shadow boxes represent so much more than just an outline or a definition of a military career. To Frank, each and every shadow box he makes is his personal dedication to that Soldier, Sailor or Marine.
In my mind, the shadow box is Frank’s bridge from the individual who served to what that service represents. The shadow boxes are incredibly profound in nature, all different and unique in their own special way. When someone receives a shadow box from Frank, they know they have something that is to be treasured and admired for all of time.
I have witnessed some of the shadow boxes Frank has made, and some are on display in his shop downstairs. The one that caught my eye immediately was the box created for the applauded Marine legend, our own Colonel Wesley L. Fox. Colonel Fox was a Medal of Honor Recipient along with countless other various awards that epitomized his leadership and command; he is an amazing man by all accounts. Now, within seconds one can quickly asses s the deep affection that Frank has for Colonel Fox, and I know for certain that the affection is equally returned back to Frank from one of the finest Marine Corps Officers that our Corps has ever known.
Frank told me the story of when he took Manila John Basilone’s shadow box to John’s parents. They sat and ate, (as Italians tend to) and just before Frank was set to depart, John’s father took down an old framed photo from the wall of John and presented it to Frank and said he wanted him to have it. What an amazing gesture of kindness, to be given a photo that was hanging in their home for years and years. This humbled Frank very much, and although his humility caused him to decline the photo originally, John’s father was set on him taking it with him; so he did. Colonel Fox has always admired Manila John Basilone, who also received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor and gallantry, the ultimate in heroism and intrepidity under fire. John Basilone had the ability to never return to war again after receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions on Guadalcanal, yet on the opening days of the assault on Iwo Jima over two and a half years later, Manila John Basilone was killed as he led his Machinegun crew up the beach. For this action he received the nation’s second highest award, the Navy Cross.
As I stated, Frank had this “awesome” photo of Manila John Basilone, a treasured and valuable item. Did he take it home and put it up on his wall? NO, he presented it to Colonel Wesley Fox as a gift, because he knew how much Colonel Fox admired Manila John Basilone. This is a simple story, yet the story of Frank’s life; it is to do for and take care of others. He always puts others before himself and takes care of and helps people, whether it be his pet cat or a friend in need. This man would give you the shirt off his back. He is one of the few that have never been changed by success, money or status. He is just happy being Frank De Angelis and what an amazing man he is.
Frank is a walking history book, a living legacy, a perfect example of etiquette, class and selflessness, a dignified man who could walk comfortably with kings and would reach down and help anyone in need doing whatever it takes to assist, to lighten the load of a lonely beggar and still make him feel special.
Soon after speaking with Frank, before I even met him, he decided he wanted to make shadow boxes for all of the fallen Marines that I was the casualty officer for. He made a shadow box for the families of Lance Corporal Jeffrey C. Burgess, Lance Corporal Matthew K. Serio, Lance Corporal John J. Van Gyzen IV, Corporal Brian Oliveira, Lance Corporal Nickolas Schiavone, Lance Corporal Michael L. Ford and Corporal Brian R. St. Germain.
What an amazing man he is, and the impact he will have on these families when I deliver them will be both immeasurable and profound. It is huge; it is gigantic and it is indeed one of the greatest, selfless acts of kindness and generosity that I have ever seen or heard of in my 20 years of service in the United States Marine Corps. I am honored to know this fine gentleman; I am proud to be called his friend, and I will treasure for all of time each and every opportunity to speak or spend time with him. In my eyes, he is the epitome of what we should all strive to be.