PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13.
This is the quote Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii’s (NAVFAC) commanding officer Capt. Marc Delao used and the overarching theme of each witness’ testimony at a remembrance ceremony about one of America’s heroes.
A Panorama City, California native and a Westlake High School alumni, Lt. j.g. Francis Toner IV will never be forgotten, and his name has become synonymous with the literal and poetic meaning of “patriot.”
He was commissioned in May 2006 and in 2008 reported to NAVFAC Hawaii. Shortly after, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant junior grade.
Months later, he would leave a wife and family behind to deployed for individual augmentation to Afghanistan for a year.
While at Camp Shaheen March 27, 2009, Toner and three other officers were conducting physical training. Around the perimeter, they were attacked by an enemy who had infiltrated the Afghan National Army.
Within seconds, officers were shot and wounded. The gunman shot one wounded officer. Toner, unarmed, verbally challenged the insurgent and continued to advance until he was fatally wounded. His actions distracted the attacker from shooting another wounded, and allowed the fourth runner to seek reinforcements.
His heroic sacrifice and love of his country saved countless lives. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor, and Sept. 3, 2011, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen awarded Toner with the Silver Star.
Ten years later, at the NAVFAC Hawaii headquarters, Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers and civilians came together during a remembrance ceremony to remember Toner.
“I had the honor of knowing Frank Toner; we were stationed together here at NAVFAC Hawaii,” said Capt. Al Hutchinson, executive officer of NAVFAC Hawaii.
Hutchinson reminisced of his days with the hero and remembered how pleasant Toner was to be around.
“Frank had a great sense of humor, he was good people, and a true American. We honor you today Frank, God bless you my brother,” said Hutchinson.
Joe Simpkins, business director of NAVFAC Hawaii, was a lieutenant commander when he knew Frank. He said he knew Toner was a special person from his interactions with him, but he had no way of knowing just how special.
“I would just like to add a bit of context to his actions that fateful day in 2009. Frank was running slightly behind the two other officers for a reason. He was encouraging a fourth runner. Frankie, as always, looking out for others,” said Simpkins. “You see Frankie had been running while wearing his body armor in preparation for a potential opportunity to go through BUDS training and become a Navy SEAL That was his goal.”
Simpkins continued his testimony with tears in his eyes and a tremble in his voice.
“Once the shooting began, Frankie had a decision to make. Seek shelter and call reinforcements, or do the only thing he could to try and save his downed comrades,” he said. “We all know what choice he made, and any of us that knew him are not surprised. His position when the shooting began was very likely survivable, and seeking shelter and reinforcements would have been a quite normal choice. But Frank was not a normal officer, or human being. He loved his fellow officers that day just like he loved his wardroom officers here in Hawaii. He made the only choice he could. Try to make a difference in that horrible situation. And he did just that.”
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