Laying of the Wreaths

Raymond Brandon salutes during the Laying of the Wreaths.

Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring the military personnel who perished while serving in the United States Armed Forces. On Monday in Scottsboro, citizens took time out of their morning to attend Memorial Day activities to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

The morning started with the traditional laying of the wreaths at the Veterans Memorial Park of Jackson County. Members of VFW Post 6073 and American Legion Post 30 led the ceremony by talking about the men and women who laid down their lives for their country, and by playing “Taps.” The laying of the wreaths is to honor and remember the Jackson County Veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice in military service to our country. The Honor Wall at the park has been installed and lists the names of 232 service members from World War I through current military conflicts.

Later that morning, the annual Memorial Day program took place at Collins Intermediate School. The program featured patriotic music selections, a somber remembrance of POW/MIA’s, and a compelling guest speaker who shared his experiences during and after the Vietnam War.

Wade Franks is a decorated Vietnam veteran who travels the country as an inspirational speaker and evangelist. Franks lives with his wife of 36 years, Gail, in Huntsville, and is the father of one daughter and grandfather to three grandchildren.

As a soldier in Vietnam for 18 months, Franks served primarily in the A Shau Valley with the 2nd 501st 101st Airborne Division infantry unit and later with the 47th Infantry Platoon Scout Dog (47th IPSD). Franks has been awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in battle and three Bronze stars as well as the Air Medal and various other campaign medals.

While serving in combat in the A Shau Valley, Franks fought in the battle known as “Hamburger Hill.” This battle would later be known as one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Like many Vietnam veterans, Franks returned home to find a country in turmoil, and a life filled with stresses he could not cope with. For the next four years, he hitchhiked around the United States living in Salvation Army shelters, flop houses and even sleeping on the side of the road and under highway bridges. During this time, Franks was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Franks got his life turned around when he returned home in Huntsville and reunited with his high school girlfriend.

Later in 1974, he and Gail were married and not long after they both gave their lives to Jesus Christ and began the journey that would lead to a long-awaited healing and ministry of sharing the gospel. Franks has been involved in the Mission Vietnam Ministry for the past 12 years. He has made 20 trips to Vietnam and is Vice Chairman for Mission Vietnam.

Franks’ story is one of survival and hope through faith in Jesus Christ. In light of past events and trauma of Franks’ life, his mission is to make his life count in honor of his fallen friends who never made it home and to devote his life to the work of sharing the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ.

“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it,” said unknown.

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