Nuvision Heroes: A Vietnam Navy veteran who continues his family’s legacy of service to his country

Oct 31, 2022, 09:38 AM by Nuvision 

frank passarelli

Frank Passarelli grew up with five Navy veterans in the family, his uncles, who had all served during World War II.

“They were all in the South Pacific at the same time, but they weren’t all on the same ship,” he said. “One uncle worked on an amphibious ship. My other uncle was [on] a destroyer. My other one was land-based.”

When Frank joined the military during the Vietnam War, his choice was clear. After serving one year as a Reservist, he spent two years on active duty in the Navy.

“My uncles always told me if you joined the Navy, you take your bed, you take your restroom, you take your kitchen, everything goes with you,” he said. “If you’re in the Army, everything’s got to catch up to you. And you always have shelter on a ship, too.”

During his time in the Navy, Frank faced constant danger and survived a deadly attack. Today, he continues to serve his fellow veterans and help civilians remember the cost of freedom through his role as Second Vice Commander at American Legion Huntington Beach Post 133. That’s why we chose Frank as this month’s Nuvision hero.

Daily trials and painful losses are the prices of freedom.

Frank was a radioman on an assault troop carrier, which brought troops to the field through canals, reaching places the helicopters couldn’t go. He worked with the Mobile Riverine Force, part of the 9th Infantry Army, and the Navy’s River Assault Squadron 15.

“I usually don’t talk about my time in Vietnam,” he said. “But I had a good crew. We worked with the Vietnamese Army, the Vietnamese Navy, the Green Berets, and the Cambodians. We worked with a lot of different people.”

‘Other veterans understand what we went through, whereas a civilian doesn’t.’

Returning home after the war, some military jobs just don’t transfer to civilian life. As a radioman, a gunner, and an engineman on a ship, Frank’s job was one of them. “I couldn’t go to my job,” he said.

“When you go into the military, they break you down from civilian life to military life,” he said. “And then when you get out of the military life, you have to go back from military life to civilian life. And that’s very difficult for some of us.”

Forming friendships with other veterans can help alleviate those difficulties. That’s what happened when Frank joined the American Legion fifteen years ago.

“You can talk to a civilian about something, and they look at you like you’re from Jupiter or something,” he said. “But you talk to another veteran, and they understand perfectly what you’re talking about.”

When he joined, Frank had been wanting to get into volunteer work. The American Legion fulfilled that desire.

“We help a lot of people,” he said. “We help not only veterans but the veterans and their families. We help wives get survival benefits. We also work with the Cub Scouts. We work with the Boy Scouts. We also do a lot with the veterans at the VA.”

Now, Frank is a service officer and Second Vice Commander at his post. They reach out to the community often through events like the 4th of July parade, a Veterans Day ceremony on the pier, a Memorial Day ceremony, and a 9/11 ceremony.

“You build a good camaraderie with your fellow veterans,” he said. “We have a very good post.”

Nuvision is grateful to work with the American Legion for our upcoming Veteran’s Day Appreciation Breakfast. We’re excited to honor Frank at this event and welcome many other veterans from the community as we thank them for their service.

Frank, thank you for your sacrifices and many years of helping local veterans find meaning and community.

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