Veteran pursues his passion creating art for the military community

#VeteranOfTheDay Frank Allen


Frank_DressMeeting Frank Allen is a rewarding experience. You can immediately sense there is an interesting story behind a pair of the kindest eyes you’ll find in Louisville, Kentucky.

I got a call from my mother about a year ago, asking me to come to her place of work to pick up something. She also told me “the security guard at the gate is a Veteran and a really neat guy.”

Always happy to meet a fellow Veteran, I said, “Okay, I’ll introduce myself.”

I pulled through the gate and standing there was a physically imposing man with a clipboard and a smile on his face. The smile is important, because this is about 10 o’clock in the morning and Allen had been on duty since 3:30 a.m.

I introduced myself and presented my identification, in return I was presented with the cheeriest response of any security guard I have ever met. It was at that moment I knew there was more to Allen than the uniform he had on.Frank_LegionCoin

We exchanged a few words before he says he was with 5th Special Forces Group, and retired as a sergeant first class in 2004. I asked him what his specialty was, expecting to hear weapons or communication sergeant, but he handed me a coin and said, “I was a graphic artist, here’s a coin I just finished for the Group.”

What he handed me was a pure and simple work of art, a beautiful coin and a testament to Allen’s talent as an artist.

Frank_TFDBackAllen is the first person to tell you he is not a security guard, that it’s just his retirement job. Rather, he is a Soldier who is fortunate to pursue his passion as an artist.

Allen’s art has been displayed throughout the special operations community. He has designed coins, memorials and anniversary graphics for units and individuals from group commanders to four-star generals and admirals.

One of his most famous coins is the Task Force Dagger series designed while he was assigned to 5th SFG in Afghanistan. Allen took a lot of pride in designing the coin, saying, “When, then Col. Mulholland, TF Dagger Commander, told me in the [Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force K2] that he wanted a TF Dagger design made, I began to brainstorm on the different symbols of special operations Frank_SFDrawingand the history of unconventional warfare, because that is what TF Dagger would be doing in theater.”

“I just give my best, always,” he says.

Frank_Drawing_CloseAllen started his Army career as a 19E and 19K armor crewman, but transitioned to a 25M multimedia illustrator. Transitioning to a desk job from a combat-arms MOS made him understandably restless.

When he was assigned to 5th SFG in 1996 he took it upon himself to get his airborne designation and jump wings in order to further integrate into a unit he takes a great deal of pride in having served.

To me, Allen epitomizes the heart of our nation’s Veterans; what they are capable of accomplishing, how talented they are and how dedicated they are to pursuing excellence.

Thank you for your service, Frank! De Oppresso Liber! Hooah!




James Killen

--James Killen is a public affairs specialist and member of VA’s digital engagement team. James is a Louisville, Kentucky, native who enlisted in the Marine Corps five days after high school. As a CH46E mechanic he deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the initial invasion, and then to the Al Anbar Province 04-05. James is currently a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard and serves as the public affairs officer for the 123rd Airlift Wing. He is a father of three beautiful girls, a huge Chicago Cubs fan and a die-hard Kentucky Wildcat. Go Big Blue!


  1. Clarence E. Orr,Jr.    

    I think I have three or four national gold medal firsts in class and a best of show medal as well. BUT having been treated like garbage by the VA have stopped entering my work. Hey, is poetry considered art as yet?
    Have you seen the arms and legs of dead men twitch then jerk while being reduced to charcoal in the melting skeleton of a downed helicopter?…I HAVE
    Have you seen a chid cry until the tears will not come anymore…yet he still cries?…I HAVE
    The bloody arm attached to a few ribs is all that remains of his mother…yet he still recognizes her…still embraces her? ..I HAVE
    Have you watched yourself die but wonder why you have not?…I HAVE.
    Name of poem? Yup “I have”
    Too harsh? War really IS hell isn’t it.

  2. Clarence E. Orr,Jr.    

    “Awaiting moderation” I.e censoring it and scratching your heads trying to decide if you DARE allow the poem to be seen by others. Whatsa matter G.I. can’t youse handle the damn truth? Not sugar coated enough for ya? This all reminds me of the VA shrink who asked me to bring some photos to show him what I saw and photographed in Nam that was so TRAUMATIC. I loaded up a paper sack with some of the best (or worst however you wand to consider it) blood and guts photos that I took while serving as a combat photographer in Nam. This weak kneed freudian or Jungian whichever nearly lost his lunch on the top of his desk….simply could not handle reality and the truth about WAR. DO NOT FORGET TO “MODERATE!” and leave the truth behind.

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