Updated: Wednesday, 28 Apr 2010, 5:44 PM MDT
Published : Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010, 2:16 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Frank Lovato, a decorated war hero from New Mexico who served his country in World War II and endured the Bataan Death March was laid to rest at the National Cemetary in Santa Fe today.
Lovato passed away on Tuesday April 20 at the Veterans Hospital in Albuquerque after an accident at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The military knew Frank Lovato as Master Sergeant Lovato, hero and survivor of the Bataan Death March. His family and friends knew as him as dad or grandpa and always with his harmonica in hand.
Lovato was a member of the National Guard in New Mexico and was one of the first Americans to engage the Japanese in battle in World War II. The soldier's biggest challenge came after being forced to surrender to the Japanese and endure the death march as well as life in a prisoner of war camp for three years.
When Lovato came back home, he married and had four children. He also continued his career in the military and joined the Air Force in 1961.
Friends and family remember Lovato for always wearing his uniform to special occassions. They also recall his love of music and musical talent. With his harmonica, he was always playing songs. His son Francisco Lovato says that his dad even led his fellow prisoners of war in singing "God Bless America," much to the protest of the Japanese while in captivity.
His biggest lessons of love to his family came from one of the hardest times in his life. "He always extended a hand, a friendship and love and compassion to everyone," said Francisco Lovato. "And it's just been overwhelming to see it, but I knew it was there. People coming up to me and telling me all about my dad."
Fransisco said his dad would like to be remembered as a simple man who loved his country and loved people. The two also wrote a book about Lovato's time in war and his reflections on it. Excerpts can be found at the website www.survivorbook.com.
Lovato is the second Bataan Death March survivor from the state to pass away within the last week. Funeral services for Claude Hatch are planned for tomorrow in Kirtland, New Mexico.