He Was Proud to Serve
“My Gutsy Story®” by Jane Franklin
He was seventeen and he wanted to be a Marine, as luck would have it the Marines were glad to have him. Vietnam, a quagmire in southeast Asia, the nineteen sixties, either you were for it or against it.He had no idea what the war was actually about, he just knew he wanted to travel. Maybe the war would be done before he turned eighteen, children think like that.
After enduring basic training he got his eighteenth birthday gift. An all expense paid vacation in Vietnam, he had been wrong about the war ending before his birthday. He gambled it would but the Marines gambled it wouldn’t. He left a boy, but he came back a man.
War was a life altering experience for him, he was a good soldier and did what he was told. He learned to love the men who served beside him, there was no black, no white,no brown, they were all brothers, they’d die for each other. He was wounded and managed to joke about it as though a night in a rice paddy, outnumbered and wounded was no big deal.
Finally he got his orders and headed home. Chronologically he was nineteen but older than time in his soul. He managed to put behind him the woman who spit in his face at the airport when she saw his uniform. Proud to be a soldier and she spits at him and calls him a baby killer. He threw away his medals, the purple heart and all the others and pretended he never served. For years he had nightmares and cried out in his sleep.
It was about this time that he and I crossed paths, we fell in love almost immediately, I was attracted to his self confidence and the kindness in his eyes. I noticed the scars he had and it was the first time he’d even mentioned having been in military service. He had little to say so I didn’t press him about it. I was naive and didn’t know the damage war can do.
One day he came home from the doctor and told me he was diabetic, thirty six years old and in otherwise perfect health. He was a very active man physically. He had not gained a pound in the years of our marriage, he ate healthy and didn’t drink alcohol. There didn’t seem to be any diabetes in his family at the time and this didn’t make sense to me.He controlled the disease through diet and exercise.
As the years went by the diabetes worsened which is normal and he adjusted accordingly. Then I started reading about Agent Orange and I felt a chill in my heart. Lots of men who served in Vietnam were showing up at the VA hospitals with some disturbing symptoms. Cancers, skin disorders and Type 2 Diabetes. I realized that the war wasn’t over for him at all, it was just beginning.I will always be grateful for his VA representative, he fought for us.
The man who used to be so graceful has trouble stepping onto a curb now. Neuropathy has taken all the feeling out of the bottoms of his feet, except the pain, it is excruciating sometimes. His career is a distant memory now, dialysis keeps him pretty busy. The retirement we looked forward to is never going to happen. We’re not working but in a way we work harder than ever.
Sometimes at his VA medical appointments I look around me and I see the same thing, some poor guy of a certain age and a wife walking along with him. No soldier complains about their actual service, they don’t feel sorry for themselves even though they were all cheated.Many of them never got to be old men, many of them never even knew what killed them. They are dying every day. Ghosts of the brave young men who marched off to war and came back thinking their service was done.
What kind of government sprays an insecticide strong enough to kill vegetation and doesn’t know it will kill people too. Forgive me if I sound unpatriotic, a soldier sacrifices, it’s expected. What he didn’t expect was to leave the war alive and whole only to find out he’ll be a fatality anyway. We adjust and go on. In my nightmares a soldier hands me the tightly folded flag and thanks me for my husband’s service.William Craig Franklin will be another fatality, doomed at eighteen, he just didn’t know it.
JANE FRANKLIN was born and raised in North Carolina. She currently shares her life with her husband of thirty eight years, two Boxer dogs, four cats, and one elderly parrot. All of them plus children and grandchildren provide inspiration for her stories. My stories can be found on www.readwave.com/jane
SONIA MARSH SAYS: Your love and admiration for your husband is beautiful, and we thank you and him for sharing, and reminding us of the long-term effects of war on soldiers.
“I probably should have mentioned the reason I thought of this story. Every day my husband lives is gutsy for him. He has taken a life that was active and rewarding and adapted to just having a life. He never complains and the simple joy of being a grandpa has taken the place of playing golf or traveling. My husband is the bravest person I’ve ever met and in a lifetime of amazing people I consider him to be the best thing that ever happened to me, 38 years together and I still consider him my best friend as well as life partner.”
My Gutsy Story® Anthology: Taking Chances and Changing Your Life
What: Author Sonia Marsh launches the second publication in her My Gutsy Story® Anthology book series by hosting an evening of inspirational stories moderated by former PBS SoCal anchor Ann Pulice. Marsh, the award winning author and founder of My Gutsy Story® series, will also announce her next gutsy adventure, signing up for the Peace Corps. The event is open to the public and all attendees will receive a copy of the newest My Gutsy Story® Anthology.
When: Saturday, November 1
4:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Where: Zovs Restaurant in Tustin
17440 E. 17th St., Tustin, CA 92780, (MAP)
ph (714) 838.8855
Who: Moderator Ann Pulice is an award-winning journalists and was co-host on PBS SoCal’s Real Orange for 17 years.
- Sonia Marsh: Award-winning author of Freeways to Flip-flops and founder of the My Gutsy Story®
- Julia Capizzi: Orange County Peace Corps representative and Bilingual Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who has lived abroad in El Salvador & Bolivia.
- Colleen Hannegan: Author and professional speaker, certified business advisor, personal life coach for women in transition.
- Mariana Williams: Author and founder of the “Long Beach Searches for Greatest Storyteller,” married to Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Paul Williams.
- Jonathan Yanez: Went from renting cars, to following his dream of becoming an author. His three-book series publishing contract has now been optioned for film.
Cost: $40 (includes book, wine and appetizers) before October 20th and $45 after that date.
More: Marsh hopes the My Gutsy Story® Anthology series and events will create a global community to help one another take risks in life. Her first publication,Freeways to Flip Flops, a chronology of her family’s one-year adventure in Belize, recently won the Reader’s Favorite, 2014 Gold Medal book award.