The "Frank Vinales' Story
Paratrooper, Rifleman, Squad Leader, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company
  

     Sgt. Frank Vinales, 19-year-old paratrooper/squad leader, 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company C, native of the Bronx, New York City, New York. Frank enlisted in the military in July 1965 and took his Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He also completed AIT at Fort Dix in October 1965, followed by Jump School in December 1965 at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1966, he also completed Recondo School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Jungle School in Panama.  Frank deployed to South Vietnam along with the original group of 3-506 Currahees aboard the USNS William Weigel in October 1967.

     Sgt. Vinales was seriously wounded during the Battle at Phu Bon Hamlet on February 6, 1968. The battle claimed the lives of two Currahees—one of them was Frank’s close friend, Sgt. Paul Cline. Sgt. Cline was wounded during the heat of battle and caught in the open under intense enemy fire. Several futile attempts were made to rescue him, and Sgt. Vinales felt compelled to help his friend. Without regard for his own safety, Frank crawled through the chaos of the battle under constant enemy automatic weapons fire toward Sgt. Cline.

     By the time he reached Sgt. Cline’s position, Frank was thankful to find his friend still alive. He managed to fire a LAW into the enemy bunker to his front; but twice, enemy bullets ripped into Sgt. Vinales, as the enemy concentrated a vigorous volley of fire on the two exposed paratroopers. Sgt. Vinales recalls, “After I fired the M72, there was a great deal of enemy fire directed towards us. Suddenly, Paul, with what little strength he had left in him, grabbed hold of me and rolled over on top of me, shielding my body from the relentless enemy fire. I could feel the enemy bullets hitting Paul, as he protected me from the enemy fire.”

     Sgt. Vinales lay very still underneath Paul’s lifeless body until darkness began to fall on the battlefield. Under the cover of darkness, he managed to crawl back to the security his platoon’s position; but was wounded twice more during his arduous escape from the battlefield. Sgt. Vinales was evacuated to a field hospital, then on to Japan for treatment of his wounds. He eventually returned to the States for further treatment at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  After his seven-month recovery, Frank was discharged from the military.

     For his actions in battle on February 6, 1968, Sgt. Frank Vinales was awarded the Silver Star Medal. His close friend, Sgt. Paul Cline, who unselfishly gave his own life to save Frank, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross—the second highest medal awarded by the U. S. Army to a soldier in combat.  Frank Vinales currently resides in Chandler, Arizona and is employed by Cox Cable Communications as a Field Team Coordinator. From the time he served as a young paratrooper in Vietnam until now, Frank still swells with pride when he hears the word “Currahee”. He has attended several 3-506 annual reunions, and still keeps in touch with his fellow Currahee brothers. Frank feels that all of the warriors who didn’t come home are the real heroes of war—and like his close friend, Paul Cline, should never be forgotten.

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     You can read more about Sgt. Frank Vinales in the detailed account of “The Battle at Phu Bon Hamlet”  Also, be sure to read "The Frank Vinales Story" in the "VETERANS DAY STORIES" in the Archives Section.

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