World War II veteran laid to rest 81 years after his death

Brooks was buried beside his mother and father, as well as some of his sisters, at the Hill Grove Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery.
Published: Oct. 1, 2023 at 7:11 PM CDT
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EDMONSON COUNTY, Ky. (WBKO) - American flags adorned the sides of highways, lined fences and were placed in the yards of several homes, churches, and businesses to welcome home veteran and prisoner of war Thomas Frank Brooks, commonly known in the area as “Uncle Frank.”

Brooks was held captive by the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. His remains were found there and identified back in June.

The community gathered together on Sunday, October 1 at Hill Grove Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery to honor the veteran with a graveside service.

Aside from an obituary reading by one of Brooks’s nephews, Donald Brooks, the ceremony included speeches from various veterans, a rifle volley, a flag folding, a final roll call, stories about his past and a presentation of medals to his nephews.

One of Brooks’ nephews who received a brass medal was humbled to receive one of his uncle’s honors.

“He was dead before I was born. But for what it’s worth, I accept this medal, which I don’t deserve, but I’ll be glad to take it and I’ll take care of it,” said Tommy Brooks, nephew to “Uncle Frank.”

The service began with the Hill Grove Church’s choir’s rendition of “Amazing Grace,” and ended with the choir singing “Sweet Beulah Land.” The Kentucky Army National Guard also performed “Taps” on the trumpet.

Letters from family, and Brooks himself, were also read by speakers during the ceremony.

The man who led the mission to bring Brooks home was Gerald Carroll, one of his 66 nieces and nephews.

When he received the call that Brooks’ remains were identified, he was left speechless.

“A gentleman in Fort Knox left a somewhat cryptic voicemail. He said, ‘I got good news about your uncle,’ and just left it at that. I called him on the phone and said, ‘Hey, this is me.’ He said, ‘We’ve identified your uncle.’ I was taken aback. I could not say a word. I guess he thought he lost connection,” explained Carroll.

Although Carroll said he believes there is a time and place for military lingo, he said bringing Brooks home was a “mission accomplished.”

“It will take me a while to move on from it, but I will come up here after it is all over,” said Carroll.

“I will visit the grave. I will talk to him. Just like any death in your family, you eventually move on from it, but I will never move on completely from this. This is not an 80- or 90-year-old man. This man was 23 years old,” said Carroll.

One of Carroll’s lasting memories from the ceremony will be the unconditional support that the community showed to him and his family.

“We do not have the words to explain how proud we are of this little community. I know this community is extremely patriotic. This man, from a family that large, everybody knew him. There are generations that showed up that would know nothing about him. For whatever reason, they were inspired to be a part of this. That has not only moved me, it has moved this entire family greatly,” said Carroll.

He also noted the number of veterans who showed up to pay their respects and encouraged people to ask veterans about their experiences in the service.

“When you see a veteran, it is great to say thank you for your service, but ask them what it was about. Ask what their service was about, and most of them are going to talk to you for a little,” said Carroll.

Brooks was buried beside his mother and father, as well as some of his sisters at the Hill Grove Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery.