Jackson County’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion will be hosting two events on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11, 2021. The first will be the wreath laying ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park of Jackson County. Following this ceremony, a coffee reception will be held next door to the park in the Veterans Hall at 9:45 a.m.
The program will be held at 11 a.m. at Collins Auditorium and will feature guest speaker, Wade Franks. Franks is a decorated Vietnam veteran who travels the country as an inspirational speaker and evangelist. He resides with his wife of 47 years, Gail, in Huntsville and is the father of one daughter and grandfather to three grandchildren.
As a soldier in Vietnam for 18 months, from January 1969 to September 1970, Franks served primarily in the A Shau Valley with the 2nd 101st Airborne Division infantry unit and later with the 47th Infantry Platoon Scout Dog. He had 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, Wade 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. In the battle, he saw many of his friends killed or wounded before he was wounded himself. Later, while serving with the Scout Dog Platoon, Wades dog, a German Shepard trained to walk point with him and seek out the enemy while on patrol, was credited with saving the lives of two squads of American soldiers before being killed in an ambush.
Like many Vietnam veterans, Wade returned home to find a country in turmoil and a life filled with stresses with which he was not prepared to cope. For the next four years, he would hitchhike around the United States, living in Salvation Army shelters, flop houses and end even sleeping on the roadside and under highway bridges, all while addicted to drugs and alcohol.
One a return trip to his hometown of Huntsville, shoeless and penniless, having been on drugs or intoxicated for almost four years, Wade was reunited with the girl he loved from high school. In 1974, he and Gail were married, and not long after their marriage, they gave their lives to Jesus Christ and began the journey that would lead to a long-awaited healing and ministry of sharing the gospel.
In 1998, after meeting Dave Roever and hearing of his ministry, Wade was given the opportunity to travel back to Vietnam as part of Dave Roever’s Journey Back team. Since that time, Wade has been involved in the Mission Vietnam Ministry until the present. He now has 20 trips to Vietnam and is vice chairman for Mission Vietnam.
Wade’s story is one of survival and hope through faith in Jesus Christ. In light of the past events and trauma of Wade’s 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.