NARRAGANSETT, RI, US
LTJG, ARSIC NORTH (TF PHOENIX)
05/16/2010, MAZAR-E-SHARIF, AFGHANISTAN
It is hard to know where to even start describing Frankie really. In the time we were together, we never fought, we always smiled and lived and loved to our fullest capacity. We truly were “that couple” that everyone knew was destined. Even we would look at each other and ask how we got so lucky… but then we would say, “we aren’t lucky — we are blessed.”
His little sister says it the best way — “He is the guy version of her, and she is the girl version of him.” A perfect match. Soul-mates. We knew after our second date, and even a little bit on our first that we would spend our lives together. And I know we still will.
He was killed exactly six years to the day of our first date. I knew him for about 7 months before, and we became instant friends. We laughed at the same silly things and he had an amazing heart…. he is the warmest person I have ever met. And he is so funny. He always was smiling — if not with his mouth, with his eyes.
People instantly love him, because he loves them — and it shows. After he died, old friend upon old friend told me stories about how Frankie stood by them during their worst times. And acquaintances told me that even though they only knew him for a short time, he changed their lives. He loved God and his Savior and always put them first in his life. He knew his eternal nature, and always tried to be a better person. At his memorial one of his buddies said — “If I was ever going through a hard time, Frankie would be the guy I would want to put his arm around me. If I was sent to war, Frankie would be the guy I would want in the trenches with me. He is the toughest, and the most tender guy I have ever known; and I will never know another man like him in my life.”
And another thing a close friend said was, “He was the best everything that can be good about a human being — but so humble that you would never hear that from him.” Most found out about all of his achievements after his death, because Frankie never boasted.
Frankie always worked hard whether on the field or in his studies. He was a star football player in high school and had many top colleges offer scholarships, but Frankie wanted to go in a direction that would serve a higher capacity. When he was recruited by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in NY for football; he made the decision that from there he would be able to serve the country, and also get an amazing degree. While at the school, he chose the most difficult path — Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management. He had a hard time with the program, but persevered and made it through, and also lettered in many sports while being challenged academically.
It was an easy choice for him to go Active Duty, since we both lived in NY during September 11, 2001. It is a day that impacted him very strongly, as he watched the towers crumble with his own eyes.
Frankie graduated USMMA in May 2006 and was directly commissioned as and Ensign for the Civil Engineer Corps for the Navy. Frankie and I were married on August 19, 2006. We were stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after Civil Engineer Corps Officer School (CECOS) in Port Hueneme, CA. In Hawaii his duties included OIC of Self Help Seabees and was also the Foreign Ship Boarding Officer at Pearl Harbor. From there, he was transferred to the command’s Public Works Officer for West Oahu. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade in May 2008.
In July 2008, Frankie departed Hawaii for Individual Augmentation Training. He reported in country (Afghanistan) in October 2008. At the time of his death, Frankie was six months into a year-long Individual Augmentation assignment with the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command North. He was assigned the position as the Garrison Engineer Mentor to the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army.
On a plaque of a building he designed on Camp Mike Spann in Mazar-e-Sharif Afghanistan it says, “He forged close relationships with Afghan officers, contractors and language assistants, embodying the professional skills and personal commitment for necessary counterinsurgency. He devoted additional time to humanitarian missions for the Afghan people and organized recreational activities between Americans and the soldiers of the ANA. He was instrumental in the engineering and construction of over one-hundred million dollars worth of facilities across the nine provinces of northern Afghanistan, and was present for the 23 March 2009 groundbreaking of the Spann Firehouse, one of the many structures he designed, and the first to be completed. LTJG Toner was killed on 27 March 2009. He died the way he lived, protecting others.”
Frankie truly died a hero as he ran towards a gunman to protect his friends, and ended up drawing fire to himself, rather than them. He continued to run towards danger even after being shot multiple times.
I really could go on and on and on about Frankie (obviously) and how amazing he is, and so full of life and I really have a so many funny stories about things that he would do as pranks, or the 5K he ran wearing a gorilla costume, and so many other proud moments of the man he is. But what it comes down to is that in his 26 years he lived his life. Truly lived it. There were two things both of us never said, “Can’t” and “Should have.”
I am so proud to be his wife and his widow; I am proud of the way he lived more-so than how he died. This is one of my favorite things he ever wrote for me:
Brooke, There is an ocean which no eye can see the end. There are no sides, no beaches, no banks, or beds – Just water that continues forever. Within this sea that has no end there are just two people. Just you and me – swimming and splashing, laughing and kissing. I hold you close as I lift my hand from the water we watch the water drip off my skin and it goes back to the ocean drop by drop. I look into your eyes so blue and true to me and say – “Each drop that must fall to fill this ocean is from my heart and each one is a piece of my love I have for you. As you can see it is never-ending. Never. With each passing unit of time my sea of love deepens for you Brooke. I love you.”
Frankie was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor device, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Action Ribbon for his Actions in Afghanistan.