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A day that changed everything

Michael Franko knew he wanted to serve his country, but his commitment swelled on a clear blue day in September that suddenly turned dark.

“When September 11th happened, and I watched the atrocities occur on that day, it just solidified the fact that I wanted to be an infantryman and lead Marines in the fight against our enemies,” says Franko. 

The Franko family were no strangers to service. Franko’s grandfather, James Franko, was in Army intelligence sometime after World War II and throughout the Korean War, and his great uncle, Robert “Bob” Franko, was a left-waist gunner in World War II. He was shot down on his 11th bombing mission in Germany and held as a prisoner of war.

Franko enlisted and was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan with Echo Company, 1st Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 5th Marine Regiment. There, he took part in helicopter operations in Shir-Ghazi, Kheraway and Zamindawar. 

Being so far from home was difficult, but Franko had a significant task at hand. 

“It was rough being so far away, but that soon drifted away as my only concern was bringing back my junior Marines,” says Franko. “They were my family and loved ones, and I was right next to them every day.”

Improvised explosive device blasts during vehicle operations took a toll on Franko and would have lasting impact as he transitioned back to civilian life. The lingering effects of his traumatic brain injury—constant migraines and headaches—and sharp pain in his hip and low back prevent his ability to run the way he used to. 

But DAV was there for Franko. His DAV service officer remained in constant contact with him and let him know the status of his claim. 

Today, Michael wants other veterans to know that DAV is there for them too – in fact, that he is there for them. After experiencing first-hand what DAV can do for veterans, Michael wanted to pay it forward and serve the veteran community. When an opportunity presented itself to become a national service officer with DAV, Michael saw the chance to fulfill his passion to help. He is proud and honored to be a DAV NSO and assist his fellow service members.

“DAV is doing an outstanding job, and after I’ve seen the work they have done for me, I’m currently working with my brother-in-law and a good buddy to use the DAV as their advocate for their claims.” 

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