Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
In 1982, Anaheim, California native Douglas Franklin, had the courage to volunteer to serve his country and enlisted in the United States Army where he completed Airborne school and became a mortarman. Before September 2001, Franklin served in Kuwait during Desert Storm. In the years after, he fulfilled orders around the world to Germany and Korea and across the United States.
With orders to E Co 96th Civil Affairs, (Airborne) SOCOM, Fort Bragg, NC, Franklin completed Civil Affairs training at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and became a team Engineer as part of a four-man Civil Affairs team for a Ranger regiment. After a nine-month deployment in various countries in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Franklin was promoted to Team Sergeant. He was then shipped off to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On the night of July 23, 2007, while working out of a small Iraqi police station 19 miles north of Bagdad, Franklin’s building was hit with two large mortar shells that exploded less than 15 feet away from where he was preparing to bed down.
The blasts left Franklin with a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), leaving him legally blind with other motor and cognitive side effects. After two and a half years of hospital stays and countless hours of therapy, Franklin medically retired on February 16, 2011.
When Franklin hung up his boots and uniform after twenty-five years of service, his impairments left him unsure of what was next. He couldn’t maintain a job and didn’t have the confidence to do many things, especially the one thing that brought him joy no matter where the Army sent him—woodworking.
While listening to the television, Franklin heard a story of another visually impaired person making a birdhouse in a woodshop. It was in that moment where he was inspired to do the same; his warrior spirit was ignited again. He had the courage to get back in his garage, get his hands dirty, and get lost in some woodworking projects, just like he used to do with his grandfather. Today, Douglas has found ways to modify his hobby by working more slowly, using adaptive equipment and always working with a sighted assistant.
Today, adaptive woodworking is his therapeutic outlet. This past year, he completed his most significant project to date, a 7 ft x 4 ft bookcase for his daughter.
Not only are we inspired by Franklin’s work, but also his courage and resolve. After hearing his story, Hope For The Warriors granted him a Warrior’s Wish of $10,000 worth of supplies, including a planer, drill press, bandsaw and more.
“I started doing this as a child,” said Franklin. “It’s been a lifelong aspiration to obtain equipment like this. Having my wish granted from Hope For The Warriors will open up a world of possibilities for me.
“I used to ride a motorcycle to feel like I was in tune with myself. Now, woodworking does that for me. It makes me feel alive and normal again.”