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West Akron veteran reflects on military life

11/8/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Veterans Day celebrated Nov. 11

Frank Klein, of West Akron, was a career Army man before returning home to take over his family’s business at The Bookseller.
Photo: Kathleen Folkerth
WEST AKRON — Surrounded by books in the shop started by his father, Frank Klein looks downright professorial.

But while he does have an English degree from Kent State University, Klein’s career ended up being one of service to his country.

Klein, now 86, served in the U.S. Army and was part of three wars: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He traveled the world and lived throughout the United States during his career.

Yet the veteran is humble about his experience.

“I’m not a hero,” he said.

Klein was born in New Philadelphia and moved to Cuyahoga Falls as a child. He graduated from Cuyahoga Falls High School in 1944, and within a month he and many of his classmates were on their way to fight in the Big One. He was in the European Theater and recalls traveling through Austria and seeing residents putting white sheets out their windows.

The war came to an end shortly after he started serving, but he didn’t go home until 1946. He said the government established a point system to decide when G.I.s could return home, and he was on the latter end.

He enrolled in college once he was home and entered the Reserve Officers Training Corps. When he was offered a regular Army commission, he took it. By then he was married.

It was also around the time the Korean War began in 1950. Klein was a platoon leader for that war for a year, he said.

When his service in that war was completed, Klein decided he would like to learn how to fly. The problem was he weighed about 20 pounds more than he could be for a military flight training program, which required candidates to be no more than 200 pounds. He put his efforts into losing weight and got down to 180, he said.

“It was wonderful,” he said. “I was assigned, applied and accepted to San Marcos, Texas, for training. I learned how to fly, and then from there I went to Fort Hood, Texas, and Germany.”

At 32, he was a little older than most candidates for flight training, but he was accepted because he had a lot of troop experience, he said.

“They began building up in aviation, so they needed people with experience in running a unit,” he said.

By 1960, he was learning how to fly helicopters.

Klein said he was in Vietnam in the early days of the conflict there, in 1964.

“When I got over there, it was beginning to heat up,” he said. He served for a year before returning home to his family.

His last two years of military service saw him at the Pentagon. His family, which includes two daughters, had traveled with him and lived all over the country, as well as in Germany, he said.

In 1970, Klein retired and came home to Ohio. He said the family’s business, The Bookseller, brought him back after his father died.

“Dad had kept the store running,” he said.

He also worked for two years as a teacher of social studies at East High School, he said.

The Bookseller moved from Cuyahoga Falls to the Five Points area in West Akron, where it was destroyed by fire. The store reopened near Akron General Medical Center, Klein said, and in 2000 moved to its present location in Wallhaven.

The store specializes in used books and has an extensive selection of military and aviation books.

“Civil War books were really big for a time,” Klein said. “Now there’s a lot of interest in World War II.”

The store also has a selection of books on lighter-than-air topics, as well, he said.

As Veterans Day approaches, Klein said he doesn’t think his service was necessarily extraordinary.

“It’s been said you can’t really call it a job so much as a total vocation when you’re on active duty,” he said. “Now as a veteran, I don’t think I’ve changed much. Serving with troops and people, it’s good for you and you get to feel somehow you can help guide people.”

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