Knoxville (WVLT) - A 23-year old Tennessee soldier lost his life in Iraq. His family celebrated his 24th birthday without him on Tuesday, but they released 24 balloons into the air.
Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel takes a look at First Lieutenant Frank Walkup, IV's life and leadership.
Lieutenant Frank Walkup became an Army officer the same day he graduated college. He wanted to be a Ranger, part of the infantry, because he said he wanted to be right in the heart of battle. Now his memory lives on in the hearts of all those who knew him, and loved him.
"He wanted to be infantry because he knew that's where the action was," SFC Sam Shubert said.
First Lieutenant Frank Walkup followed his dreams. Those dreams led him from the University of Tennessee and ROTC to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
"I wear his Ranger Badge, and I wear his Airborne Wings at work, and the soldiers look at me and say you've got an Airborne Ranger, and I say 'Yes I do'," stepmother Mitzi Walkup said.
"He believed in what he was doing. He believed it was for the good of the country and the good of his own personal family," Frank Walkup, III said.
His parents and his eight younger brothers and sisters say they couldn't be more proud of the soldier Frank became and the sacrifice he made.
"Frank Walkup had no problem being a leader, he sticks out in a crowd," Shubert said.
At the University of Tennessee, he stuck out, especially through his performance in ROTC. There, he received several awards,
including the John S. Daniel Junior Tennessee Ranger Scholarship.
"He was a leader within the Cadet Battalion and a leader within the Ranger Company itself, and he met the pretty stringent requirements to get that award," Lt. Col. Ron Borden from UT said.
"From the point I met him, he was just a leader at the beginning," Shubert said. "Cadet Ranger Company Commander, so he was already a Ranger before he went to Ranger school."
Frank married his college sweetheart, Sabita, last summer and left for Iraq in August. Saturday, he died after a roadside bomb detonated near his position in Kirkuk.
"He was going to serve with an "affair of the heart," meaning he wanted to serve his country, wanted to serve his nation, wanted to lead soldiers," Borden said.
Frank's family knows his life of leadership will help him as he takes on another military role -- serving in God's Army.
"He always strived to be the best at everything he could be. He was the best of the best," Mitzi Walkup said.
And that's exactly what First Lieutenant Frank Walkup wanted to be.
"He said, Dad, only the best get to go to the Infantry," Walkup said.
Lieutenant Walkup's family is planning his funeral for July 4th.
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