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Veteran’s tale: Chinoski talks about why he joined the Marines

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Verbena High School commemorated Veterans Day on Nov. 6 with a school assembly featuring patriotic music and a message from former Marine and VHS graduate Frank Chinoski.

Chinoski served in Iraq and Afghanistan after joining the U.S. Marine Corps shortly the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. It was the events of that historic day that prompted him to join the military.

After graduation from VHS, Chinoski went to work for his father’s painting business.

Chinoski was also taking “some junior college classes there at the trade school.” On Sept. 11, 2001, he said he needed to leave work to go home to study for a test.

“Like most of you do when you say you are going home to study for a test, I turned the TV on,” Chinoski said.

When Chinoski first saw the images of the attack, he thought it was from a movie — until the second plane hit.

He called his mom at work, and she confirmed it was real.

“I watched it all day long … my parents came home, and we were watching it and President (George W.) Bush comes on TV and says … something along the lines of whoever did this we are going to find out who you are and we are going to hold you responsible for it, hold you accountable for it,” Chinoski said. “I started thinking, ‘Who is going to hold them accountable for this?’”

This is when he first started thinking about joining the military. He chose the Marines because he had a neighbor growing up that had been a Marine in the Vietnam War.

“I would go down there and he would tell me stories about Vietnam, and he would show me pictures that he had taken in Vietnam,” Chinoski said. “I just thought he was the coolest.”

The grandfather of his “high school sweetheart” was also a Marine.

Chinoski called a recruiter on his lunch break on Sept. 12 and asked “how fast can I join the Marines?”

He told his parents about his decision and met with a recruiter.

In January 2002, Chinoski was in basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina. Chinoski finished top of his class and received the Honor Graduate award. After additional military and engineering training, Chinoski was sent in January 2003 to Kuwait to wait before going into Iraq. He was a part of the Diyala River Crossing.

Chinoski said the experience and seeing how poor people were in Iraq gave him new perspective on his own life.

Later, Chinoski was promoted to corporal and assigned to an anti-terrorism task force, which was deployed to Afghanistan.

“Our job there was to protect the embassy,” Chinoski said.

After completing his enlistment, Chinoski officially separated from the Marine Corps and went to college, using scholarship funds from the military and a football scholarship to pay his tuition.

Chinoski emphasized that veterans “come in all sizes, shapes, races (and) genders.”

There are 18 million veterans living in the United States, according to the last census.

Chinoski now lives in Verbena with his wife and three children.