SHELTON — U.S. Marine Sgt. Milan Franklin received a hero’s welcome to Shelton on Saturday.
The Patriot Guard Riders of Washington State escorted veteran Franklin and his girlfriend, Delaree, through downtown Shelton with the assistance of Shelton Police Department and Central Mason Fire-EMS. Also joining in the honor procession were several Mopar antique car groups from around Western Washington.
The procession honored Franklin, who lost both his legs and part of his hand when an improvised explosive device blew up while he was on active duty in the Helmut Province of Afghanistan.
The procession stopped at Shelton Civic Center, where Franklin was greeted by a Patriot Guard Riders flag line.
Representatives of Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit organization building a home near Shelton specially designed for Franklin’s disability, led the ceremony inside the civic center.
Franklin, who will receive the fifth such home in Washington state, says he was overwhelmed by the greeting that drew about 100 people.
“It’s one thing to be in a leadership role while on active duty and speak to lieutenant colonels and generals about a mission, but not something personal,” he said. “And that was what was really hard about it. On top of that it was seeing how many people came out and all the calls I’ve been receiving welcoming me to the community. It was one of those ‘why me?’ I’m just a regular person.”
Patriot Guard Riders ride captain Kevin “Wolf” Rose said it was an honor to lead the riders for on Franklin’s behalf.
“I personally feel it’s the highest honors I can give back to our veterans who have served,” Rose said. “
Franklin’s Homes for Our Troops house is already under construction and should be completed by October. The couple is moving from Lakewood to the Shelton area to start up a hobby farm and grow their own food. Franklin described what it means to him to have a mortgage-free home.
“Really its getting freedom back, to the point that not every second Del sits down I’m not saying, “Honey, I need help,’” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’m going to the bathroom and my wheel catches on the side of the wall and I go face first right on the bathroom floor. It’s so hard to get around. It’s to the point that I’m trying to avoid steps outside because I’m trying to avoid it because when I have to run outside I can’t get back inside without help. It’s just really getting my independence back.”
Shelton’s Sierra Pacific Industries mill is donating framing lumber and windows for Franklin’s home.
Homes for Our Troops has built 257 homes for wounded warriors nationwide. To donate to the organization, see the website at hfotusa.org.