OLDSMAR — Flags line an Oldsmar street nearly two weeks after a local soldier lost his life in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, the parents of that soldier, Army Cpl. Frank Gross, plan to hold a public memorial service for him.
Craig and Antonia Gross initially scheduled the service at a smaller church in Safety Harbor. But they expect a huge crowd. So they moved it to Countryside Christian Center, which can accommodate about 2,500.
Several cars from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office will escort the Grosses to the service, said sheriff's Sgt. Tom Nestor. The Patriot Guard Riders also plan to provide motorcycle escorts.
Craig Gross said the family doesn't want to say much now. They want the attention focused on their son, who was killed on July 16 after an improvised explosive device caused his vehicle to roll over.
He died less than three weeks after he was deployed. Since then, the community has rallied around the family.
"The neighborhood's been wonderful," said Mayor Jim Ronecker, who drove down the Gross' street Wednesday. "Everybody in their neighborhood has a flag out. They're very appreciative of the community support, which has been overwhelming."
Such a loss is unusual in Oldsmar, said Ronecker, who has been asked to speak at the service. "We have no records or history of any other active-duty soldiers being killed," he said.
Oldsmar plans to honor Gross as well. His name will be inscribed on a wall at the city's Veterans Memorial Park, where a memorial bench will likely be installed in his honor, Ronecker said.
Council member Jerry Beverland said Gross' death has hit the community hard: "We try to consider Oldsmar a community of families. When someone loses someone, it's a loss for all of us."
Gross, 25, known as "Frankie," loved baseball and was a pitcher at Indian Rocks Christian High. He earned bachelors and masters degrees from Full Sail University near Orlando and enlisted in the Army in May 2010.
Deployed on June 28, he was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, out of Fort Hood, Texas. His decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon, according to the military.
He'll be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.