Museum of Veterans and Military History
Museum of Veterans
and Military History
P.O. Box 668
Vilonia, Arkansas 72173
We are a 501c3 organization - your donations are tax deductible
Awarded the 2014 and 2015 Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit of the Year
Proudly honoring our military Veterans through education, outreach and community service
2018 Faulkner County
Veteran of the Year Awarded to
Gulf War veteran Colonel (retired) Mary Frances “Frankie” Sears
Previous award winners of the Faulkner County Veteran of the Year:
(c) Museum of Veterans and Military History - all rights reserved, 2014-2018
The Veterans Museum accepts applications for the
Faulkner County Veteran of the Year Award in January of each year. Deadline is March 15.
Mary Frances "Frankie" Sears spent 21-year in the military in various capacities including at military posts in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. Sears and her unit were also mobilized for Operation Desert Storm. She spent six months in Saudi Arabia, where she provided anesthesia care for American and allied soldiers, as well as prisoners of war, as chief nurse anesthetist.
Gulf War veteran Colonel (retired) Mary Frances “Frankie” Sears said, in 1976, when she enlisted in the Arkansas Army National Guard it made her “daddy real proud.” “I have a lot of family that served,” she said. “It isn’t out of the normal for my family to serve but I always told everybody I was the oldest first lieutenant in the Army.”
Her father, Ernest Wallace, was a WWI veteran with a signal unit—a “real hero” in his daughter’s eyes. He also had two brothers in WWI. They all served in France. Her father’s twin sister was a “Rosie the Riveter.” Her cousin was one of the famous Red Raiders. And, another cousin was on a hospital ship when it sank. She was rescued but spent many hours in the water, Sears said.
Sears spent 21-year in the military in various capacities including at military posts in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. Sears and her unit were also mobilized for Operation Desert Storm. She spent six months in Saudi Arabia, where she provided anesthesia care for American and allied soldiers, as well as prisoners of war, as chief nurse anesthetist.
However, her career in healthcare began long before her military career. A couple of days after graduating from Malvern High School, Sears began school at Arkansas Baptist Hospital School of Nursing. She worked in numerous hospital units including intensive care, emergency and labor and delivery before receiving her certification as a nurse anesthetist. At age 39, with nearly two decades of nursing experience, she joined the National Guard with the 148th Evacuation Hospital. She entered the military with a “direct commission,” as a first lieutenant.
Most of the females in the military, then, she recalled, were in the nurse corps. There were very, very few female officers who were not nurses,” Sears explained.
Officers’ basic, she said, wasn’t that intense physically. However, it was August and hot in San Antonio when she was going through it. Map reading, she said, was an integral part of her training.
Sears retired in 2008 at the age of 71. Today, she lives in Mayflower and was selected in June as Faulkner County Veteran of the Year by the Museum of Veterans and Military History in Vilonia. In that capacity, she will represent the museum at various events throughout the year.
Recalling events from her military career, she said, the overseas duty stations were probably the most memorable to her for a variety of reason. Perhaps, because at them she, often, worked outside the realm of medicine. The younger soldiers under her charge, she said, at times turned to her for motherly advice and a shoulder to cry on. For instance, when they called home to learn their girlfriends or boyfriends had dumped them or their spouses had filed for divorces.
A quiet nature, she said, she generally got along well with those serving under her command. “I wasn’t a yeller,” she said. As well, she said, she wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything that she wouldn’t do. If the toilets needed cleaning, she said, she would clean them.
“That’s just the way I am,” she added.
On that note, she talked briefly about helping a couple of veterinarians to care for animals while stationed in Guatemala.
She also fondly recalled a visit with a patient to whom she administered anesthesia. The Texas soldier told her he couldn’t wear his pants because they had been cut by the medical team. Sears used a sewing machine that she bought at a local Saudi Arabia market to mend them so he could rejoin his unit upon recovery.
“He told me they fit a whole lot better than they did before,” she laughed.
Sears may have other things on her bucket list but she’s fulfilled many. She has been to every state in the Union as well as other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Italy, Cuba, Mexico and Belize. She has been past the Arctic Circle and driven to Alaska as well as to most of the Canadian provinces.
After she retired, she worked at the Conway outpatient clinic. She’s been married 37 years to her husband, Don, who also served 39 years in the Guard. They also enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren.