Area veterans are mourning the loss of a Killeen veteran who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II.
Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Frankie Ramirez, who had survived being in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp for months, died Wednesday. He was 96 and a longtime Killeen resident.
A native of the Philippines, Ramirez fought with a regiment of the Philippine Scouts during the war at Fort Frank, a small rocky island that served as one of four defense forts at the entrance to Manila Bay, according to a 2014 Army article about the veteran.
When allied forces were forced to surrender after the fall of Bataan, Ramirez became one of 70,000 prisoners of war who were either carted to Camp O’Donnell, which the Japanese had converted into a prison camp, or forced to walk in the infamous Bataan Death March.
After three months, Ramirez was released with other native Filipinos and immediately joined a guerilla group, where he continued fighting the Japanese until the war ended, according to the Army.
After the war, he went on to serve for another 16 years, including a tour of duty in the Korean War.
He retired out of Fort Hood to the Killeen area and lived with his wife, Christa.
In 2006, Ramirez was honored at Fort Hood during a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony.
Ramirez retired in 1961, and was active in the American Ex-Prisoners of War, Cen-Tex Chapter No. 1.
He was also a member of the Killeen-based American Legion Post 223.
Ramirez’s older brother died at Corregidor in the Philippines when Ramirez was 20 years old.
According to a Killeen Daily Herald article in 2003, Ramirez said he was happy to have survived three months in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, but he felt lonely remembering fallen comrades.
“It’s hard to think about them not being with you,” Ramirez told a crowd at a local Memorial Day service that year. “But this is the way we let them know that we still remember them and we still care.”
Former Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin, a Vietnam veteran and past state president of the American Legion, said Ramirez was greatly respected in Killeen’s veterans community.
Corbin called Ramirez a “wonderful man, great patriot” and active even into his 90s.
Funeral arrangements are pending with Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home of Killeen.