MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- On March 9, 2002, the clock stopped inside Angel One.
During a rescue attempt, tragedy had befallen the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Search and Rescue team. One of their helicopters malfunctioned and crashed into the sea. The crew made it out safely from the wreck except for one man.
That man was Hospitalman First Class Kevin J. Frank.
Frank was an outsanding and experienced sailor, who had been in the Navy for 21 years, according to HM1 Michael B. Ford, SAR corpsman. Frank was one of the most experienced SAR corpsmen in the Navy, with 16 years under his belt.
“He was just really great,” Ford said. “He loved this job and really loved flying.”
The accident that took Frank’s life occurred as the crew of Angel One was trying to rescue the victims of a boating accident, according to Ford. After flying over the area several times, the crew was on their way out of the area when someone on board spotted what looked like a victim in the water. The pilot of the helicopter began to turn, but a malfunction with the craft caused it to crash into the waves below.
“It was a wake up call for all of us,” said HM1 George G. Marinez, SAR corpsman. “To have to search for our own plane and corpsman, that was a terrible shock.”
“He was a really good guy who went out of his way to make sure the young corpsmen knew what the job meant and what its importance was,” Ford said. “He always took care of the troops.”
Frank would make personal sacrifices for the benefit and well-being of his troops, Ford said. The corpsman stood extra duties to make sure the Sailors under his charge could go to school and prepare for their future.
After the accident, the Marines who worked with the SAR Sailors made a great effort to help the corpsmen search for their lost brother, according to Marinez.
“The Marines did everything in their power to make sure we had whatever we needed to get out there and search for HM1 Frank,” Marinez said.
While the death of HM1 Frank was a tragedy that left a scar in the hearts of the SAR team members, his spirit and dedication will live on in their memories, according to Marinez.
“We’ll keep moving on, because that’s how Frank was,” Marinez said. “He was the kind of guy to walk into a room and just bring everyone’s spirits up, even if they were feeling really down.”
Despite the tragedy of losing a fellow Sailor and good friend, Ford believes that Frank passed away doing what he loved… helping people.
“Nobody wakes up and says ‘I’m going to die today,’” Ford said. “But in retrospect, if he had to choose, he was out there doing the job, trying to help someone, and I think he’d be happy to go knowing that.”