Government Transportation

Newtown Bridge Named In Honor of U.S. Army Soldier Who Died Saving Others

The bridge in Newtown is named after a local soldier who died.

A photo of Frank Mebs.

The Bucks County Bridge No. 89 on Barclay Street, which connects Newtown borough and township, has been officially named in honor of U.S. Army Specialist Frank Martin Mebs.

The dedication ceremony took place on Wednesday and was attended by Mebs’ family, veterans, local politicians, and police officers.

Credit: Tom Sofield/

Mebs, a native of Newtown, lost his life at the age of 20 while serving at Fire Support Base Veghel in the Thua Thien Province of Vietnam.

Mebs died in 1970 while combating a fire in an ammunition dump, an act of bravery that ultimately saved the lives of hundreds of his fellow soldiers, according to multiple accounts and witnesses.

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During the ceremony, attendees paid tribute to Mebs’ selfless service. His family and a veteran who served alongside him highlighted his dedication to duty and his fellow soldiers.

According to the book “More Than Names On A Wall” by James McComb, Mebs single-handedly smothered the explosion with his bulldozer, an act that left “nothing except the blade and some parts.”

Don Aird, a soldier present at the dump, later credited Mebs’ actions with potentially saving 600 lives.

In 2000, Aird contacted Mebs’ family in Bucks County and shared in a letter that Mebs had died a hero.

Steve Kilde, another fellow soldier who helped recover the wreckage after the fire and explosion at the based, traveled from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, to Bucks County for the dedication.

Steve Kilde retelling the story on Wednesday. Credit: Tom Sofield/

Kilde, who had struggled with the aftermath for decades, connected with a therapist years ago. The sessions inspired him to locate Mebs’ family and work towards securing the recognition Mebs deserved.

Kilde could never forget Mebs or the events of that day.

The veteran retired from military service in 1983 and later spent 19 years working for the federal government. He was treated for PTSD, partly caused by what he experienced when Mebs died.

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Noticing discrepancies in Mebs’ service records and awards, Kilde embarked on a mission to correct them.

“So, I started digging and digging and digging. This guy is missing a few metals, he’s missing a few ribbons,” he said.

His efforts involved various government offices, including the U.S. Department of Defense and the White House.

Through extensive efforts, Kilde ensured that Mebs received several posthumous awards, including the Army Commendation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal First Class, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Medal with Palm, a Presidential Unit Citation, and a Meritorious Unit Citation with three oak leaves.

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Kilde received the medals and ribbons on Mebs’ behalf and mounted them in a shadow box with the help of a hobby shop.

Kilde, who also knew Mebs from military training in 1968, is now working to secure the Congressional Medal of Honor for Mebs.

At Wednesday’s dedication and a weekend ceremony with the Mebs’ family at Jesse Soby American Legion Post in Langhorne, Kilde’s commitment to his fallen peer was clear.

Frank Mebs’ niece, Meghan Frazer, attended the ceremony with her father.

“Since the very moment Uncle Frank decided to climb onto that bulldozer, he drove into danger so others could come home,” she said.

Meghan Frazer speaking. Credit: Tom Sofield/

Frazer finds solace in knowing the lives her uncle saved, she said.

Mebs, who left Council Rock High School in 1966 to enlist in the U.S. Army, was serving with the U.S. Army Engineer Command, 18th Engineer Brigade, 45th Engineer Group, 27th Engineer Battalion, A Company at the time of his death. He joined the army to receive heavy equipment training for a job post-war.

Mebs brother at the event. Credit: Tom Sofield/

On the early morning hours of May 27, 1970, Fire Support Base Veghel came under suspected enemy attack, and friendly mortar return fire ignited the ammunition dump after landing short of its target.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers present at the dedication honored Mebs’ service, presenting his family with citations and flags that had flown over the state capitol in Harrisburg and U.S. Capitol.

Ed Preston speaking. Credit: Tom Sofield/

Ed Preston, who has spearheaded the county’s effort to name bridges after veterans, stated that the ceremony corrected an injustice and highlighted Mebs’ service to the nation.

A portrait of Mebs is displayed at Council Rock North High School.

Credit: Tom Sofield/
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Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo addressing those who gathered. Credit: Tom Sofield/
State Rep. Perry Warren speaking. Credit: Tom Sofield/
State Sen. Steven Santarsiero speaking. Credit: Tom Sofield/
Credit: Tom Sofield/
Commissioner Bob Harvie speaking at the event. Credit: Tom Sofield/
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick addressing those who gathered. Credit: Tom Sofield/
Commissioners Chairperson Diane Ellis-Marseglia speaking. Credit: Tom Sofield/
Credit: Tom Sofield/

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.