NAVAL HOSPITAL PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Twice a week, Francis "Frank" Emond drives over 30 minutes to volunteer at Naval Hospital Pensacola.
The Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor turned 99 on May 21 and is showing no signs of slowing down.
While volunteering at the hospital, Emond greets visitors, answers the phone at the Quarterdeck and pushes patients in wheelchairs who need assistance. He has been a Red Cross volunteer for 16 years and enjoys the interaction with patients and staff.
Originally from Rhode Island, Emond enlisted in the Navy in 1938 as a musician. He played the French horn for the ship's band and even got to perform at the 1939 World's Fair in New York before he was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) in Hawaii in the summer of 1941. The day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Emond and fellow Navy musicians played at a dance and band contest. His band won the contest against other bands from the USS California (BB-44) and USS Arizona (BB-39). His band later donated the trophy they won in memory to the men from the Arizona. As the sun rose on Dec. 7, 1941, Emond was preparing for morning colors and the raising of the American flag.
That's when Emond noticed the hundreds of Japanese planes that filled the sky followed by the sound of a torpedo striking a ship docked behind his battleship. In addition to being a musician, Emond was trained as a stretcher bearer and with the general alarm sounding amongst the sound of gunfire and explosions; he began retrieving injured and dead Sailors aboard the Pennsylvania.
"The sky was full of planes," said Emond. "After the attack, we were issued rifles and ammo in case there was an invasion. I had the midnight to 4 a.m. watch that night patrolling on the dock alongside the ship. I walked with my rifle loaded and my finger on the trigger."
Following the war, Emond remained in the Navy until he retired in 1968 in Pensacola. He is currently married and has two sons, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His 100-year-old brother still lives in Rhode Island.
"It's important for everyone to give something," said Emond when asked why he still volunteers at Naval Hospital Pensacola. "Time is something that everyone can give. It's an important gift."
Emond is a popular volunteer at Naval Hospital Pensacola, though not everyone knows his history. He is popular for the enthusiasm he brings to the hospital and the help he provides to patients and staff. The hospital held a surprise birthday party for him on May 23 to thank him for the service he provides.
"Frank inspires people," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Clarence Wright, security officer at Naval Hospital Pensacola. "I always take the time to talk to him and introduce younger Sailors to him. He is a walking history book, but he is very humble."
Emond doesn't just volunteer at the hospital, he is also active in his church and still conducts music. During Memorial Day Weekend, Emond will be travelling to New Orleans, Gulfport; Mississippi, and back to Pensacola to perform with the Pensacola Civic Band. He will share his experience at each concert and conduct the band during their performance of "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Emond said that his thoughts this week have been of the Navy band aboard the USS Arizona that lost their life at Pearl Harbor.
"They never had the chance to live a life like I did," said Emond. "They never had a chance to have a family."
Emond is already preparing for his next birthday, and he has lofting goals for when he turns 100.
"I plan on inviting President [Donald] Trump to my next birthday party," said Emond. "I figure I will send him an invitation in about six months."
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