By: S.L. Frisbie, IV for Polk News-Sun
S.L. Frisbie IV Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame Member, 4th-Generation Polk County Newspaper Publisher
Remembering sacrifice in a unique way
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend a unique program to honor 32 citizens of the community of Apopka who lost their lives in combat from the Spanish-American War to the Global War on Terrorism.
A sign honoring each of the 32 men has been mounted atop street signs. Each sign lists the name, rank, date of death, and the war.
The signs are mounted at intersections on Park Avenue, the city’s main north-south thoroughfare. One sign, at the request of family members, was mounted at Park Avenue and First Street, the street from which the honoree hitched a ride into Orlando to join the Army in World War II for assignment to Europe.
The program in Apopka, with the backing of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was conducted in a public park which was the site of a small Army camp during World War II.
The brother of one of the honored men, now 90 years old, recalled crawling under the fence around the military compound to play ball with the soldiers.
At the program, the name of each casualty was read in a ceremonial roll call, and when there was no response, a bell was rung.
One of the four World War II soldiers honored was Mary’s uncle, Capt. Jack G. Grossenbacher, a pilot with what was then the U.S. Army Air Forces. His P-38 aircraft was shot down near the town of Oberarnbach as he was flying escort for a disabled American bomber returning from a mission over Munich on July 21, 1944.
A few years ago Mary heard from a female officer assigned to an American military base at Frankfurt, Germany. She had tracked down the Grossenbacher family to provide a little more information on Captain Grossenbacher’s death.
Several residents of Oberarnbach saw his plane go down, but it was three-and-a-half weeks before his body was located near the wreckage of his plane.
Those German civilians interred his remains in an elaborate grave in the community cemetery. It could only be interpreted as a show of respect for a fallen enemy combatant.
Some of the steel from his aircraft was salvaged by them and recast into cooking utensils which are still in use.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. An only child, he married into a family with five brothers and sisters, who have made him feel accepted as a full member of their family. For simplicity, when he visits Apopka, he introduces himself as “S. L. Grossenbacher, Mary’s husband.”)
Reprinted with permission of Polk News-Sun