Saturday, January 24, 2004

Franks Contracts a Strange Skin Disease (From Which He Later Dies) After Working Near Al-Tuwaitha Nuclear Facility

I’m dead tired. I’m going to stay up a little longer so I can call you again. You were driving to one of the girls’ surprise B-day parties. I love you. Stay safe!

It was around this time that my journal noted the continuing health problems of SPC Franks. He developed a skin disease in 2003 while we were still in Baghdad. After some limited treatment, he was detailed to the TOC as an RTO (Radio Telephone Operator) and allowed to wear tennis shoes. I remember one day going to his room to wake him up for his RTO shift. He was laying face down on his bed under a blanket. Part of his calf was exposed from under the cover, revealing a deep lesion in his flesh. Flies had gathered around the rim of the lesion, and other flies swarmed around him. I had no idea his condition was so severe. Others didn’t think it was so severe, and he remained in Iraq for most of the deployment. Franks was African-American, so the skin disease affected the pigmentation of his skin (perhaps worse than it would a white person). Spots on his body became pink and blotched and scabby. Still, he remained in Iraq. I talked to him about writing his congressman about his situation, but he wanted to avoid creating any controversy. He was a good man, a gentle man – it wasn’t his nature to fight. So, I wrote a letter for him. I got a form letter back, saying that sympathized with my concerns over Iraq becoming a “quagmire.” It must have been a form letter, because I never wrote about such a topic. His leaders largely dismissed the problems, as more pressing matters commanded their attention. Sergeant Newsome was happy to help Franks by reducing his physical tasks and placing him in front of a radio, where he could be of better use.
Franks, after a long struggle, died in a northern German hospice almost a year later, leaving behind a young wife.


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