SENNETT — There's a poster hanging up near the front door of the Lowe's in Sennett, featuring a fallen young soldier dressed in green Army fatigues, a helmet and goggles on his head, his eyes obscured by dark sunglasses. The soldier's name is Frankie Phillips and his mother, Cherie Phillips, walks past that poster every day on the way to her office.
Staff Sgt. Francis G. Phillips IV, known as Frankie by his family and friends, served for nine years in the United States Army until May 2013, when he and four other soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He was 28 years old. He will be honored by NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson during a Memorial Day weekend race.
Frankie, who lived in Meridian for a short time before joining the U.S. Army in 2005, was chosen by Lowe's to be remembered on the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion's car during the 600 Miles of Remembrance Race on May 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lowe's is one of Johnson's biggest sponsors and chooses employees or their family members who were killed in the line of duty to be honored during the race, Auburn Lowe's manager Shawn Hubbard said. Phillips has worked as an administrator at the local Lowe's for three years.
"I don't know how she let us put that picture up of him at the front of the store there and walks by it every day," Hubbard said of Phillips. "She is so strong."
Frankie's name will appear on the windshield of Johnson's car, which will feature a patriotic design chosen by Phillips. The special car will be unveiled to the public at the Sennett Lowe's at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 17. The car will be in the parking lot until 12:30 p.m. All are welcome to stop by the store to see the car, which Phillips said will feature a design with stars.
"The reason why I picked (the design) is because they say when your loved ones die and you look up in the heavens that the stars are their little holes from heaven looking down on you," Phillips said.
Phillips said many of Frankie's family members and friends from the Army are planning to come see the car, either in Auburn or at the race.
"I'm shocked at the number of people who are really thrilled about having Frankie on the car," she said.
Phillips, along with her partner Greg, daughter Danielle and future son-in-law, will make the trip down to North Carolina to watch the race and meet Johnson, who will wear Frankie's military dog tags during the race. Frankie's wife, Christine, and 9-year-old daughter Sophia are not able to make it to the race, Phillips said. May is a "really difficult time" for the family, Phillips said, so they are looking forward to "something happy and positive for once, in the month of May."
"As somebody that's lost somebody that they love, and they leave a void in the family, seeing their name again, just knowing that they're not forgotten, means the world to us," Phillips said through tears. "Nobody ever wants their loved one forgotten."
Though Frankie didn't grow up in Cayuga County, Phillips said Auburn had a special place in Frankie's heart and he considered it to be his home.
"He didn't grow up here, he wasn't raised here but this is where he came home to," Phillips said. "This is where he considered his home because his momma was here. He has his favorite places he always went when he came here, he brought his wife to meet me for the first time here, his baby girl after she was born here. This was his home and having (the car come) here to Auburn is pretty special and I know he would feel pretty special about that too."