Frank Rombach puts on his uniform several times a week to say goodbye to friends he’s often never met.
Rombach, 83, is the commander of the VFW Post 2661 honor guard. As part of his responsibilities with the honor guard, the Washington native attends military funerals.
When a military veteran dies, the family can request a funeral with military honors. That’s where Rombach and the honor guard come in.
“We work through Jefferson Barracks,” he said. “They call us when they have a family request military honors for the deceased.”
Rombach and his other guard members dress in their full VFW uniforms and perform the honors ceremony. The guard performs the rifle salute, taps and the ceremonial folding of the flag.
As the commander, Rombach is in charge of giving the commands.
The honor guard travels all around the area. Rombach said they’ve served at funerals in St. Louis County, Franklin County and Warren County.
“We got a pretty big area that we cover,” he said.
The requests are frequent. Rombach said the group sometimes attends two to three services a week. Despite the busy schedule, he said it’s an honor to give a final salute to his “brothers.”
“It’s something that you feel — it’s the last thing you can do for your brother veterans,” he said.
Rombach said he often doesn’t personally know the veteran, but the two share the common bond of military service. He got involved in the military by joining the Air Force.
Just before the Korean War ended, Rombach joined the Air Force in March 1953. He served until March 1957. He followed active duty with four years of inactive reserve.
He decided to join the Air Force with an old friend, Bob Frankenberg.
“I used to bowl down at St. Francis alleys years ago and one of my closest friends,” Rombach said. “He came in there one night and the first thing he said to me, ‘Guess what I got in the mail today.’ I said, ‘Your draft card.’ He asked how I knew that and I told him I got mine, too.”
After a night of bowling, Rombach and Frankenberg went up to the Knights of Columbus to “indulge” in a few beverages, he said. The two were talking about their draft cards.
Frankenberg said the two should meet up with an Air Force recruiter first thing in the morning.
“I said, ‘Bob, the Air Force is four years’ active duty. If we take the Army, it will only be two years,’” Rombach said. “He said to me, ‘Yeah, but I don’t like to walk.’ I said, ‘Well you’ve got a point,’ so he and I both went to the Air Force recruiter.”
While with the Air Force, Rombach served as an aircraft mechanic. He was in charge of maintenance of aircrafts. He was responsible for checking out the aircrafts before takeoff.
“A lot of the missions we were on, they said we couldn’t talk about them because they were classified,” he said. “The truth is, they didn’t tell us much about what we were doing.”
The skills he picked up in the Air Force served Rombach when his service time was up. After moving back home he got a job at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis doing similar work to what he did in the Air Force.
He worked at McDonnell Douglas for 12 years. He then worked as a welder and as a mechanic before landing a job with Mercy Hospital at a maintenance mechanic for 18 years before retiring.
Upon retiring, Rombach had more time to spend with the VFW. He was named the VFW veteran of the year in 2015.
Rombach currently lives in Washington with his wife, Juanita Rombach. The two have been married for 57 years and have four children, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.