Franklin savors simple freedoms after deployment

Franklin savors simple freedoms after deploymentBy ANN COUSINEAU, News Review Correspondent

When Capt. Alisha Franklin returned home from a 10-month deployment to Kuwait in May, she brought with her a strong appreciation of family life and also deep respect for military service members who have served multiple deployments. As Americans celebrate freedom on the July 4, she will, too.

“I have a greater appreciation for our way of life and how lucky we are,” she said. “I appreciate our freedom in this country and the opportunities we have as women.”

“I also really appreciate people who have done multiple deployments, leaving home time and again, in military service.”

She said that she has also gained a greater appreciation for veterans in general. “My dad was in the Navy for 20 years and gone a lot while I grew up. But this first-time deployment helped me put things in perspective. It’s a good reminder of the importance of family and friends,” said Alisha.

“I have to say how much it means when people come up to you and say ‘thank you’ to those serving in the military. Also, we appreciate the organizations sending care packages to us — they are amazing.”

The biggest things she missed were her husband and son, Alisha said. However, she has also gained an appreciation for the “little things” of life here. That includes indoor plumbing; especially when she’s had

to bundle up against 30degree desert chills for a 3 a.m. trek to the latrine. Additionally, she missed cooking, and the foods readily available at home. She is glad to have left behind “shelf-stable” milk and other food items that tasted weird.

When a reporter showed up last Friday for an interview, Alisha was in her kitchen with her slow cooker already making dinner for her family, while she prepared a dessert for friends expected that evening.

As the interview progressed, she continued her work, and her son Thomas eventually awoke from his nap. Later, her husband Mike returned from work, greeted his wife, and snatched a taste from her mixing bowl in the cozy kitchen setting.

Except for the reporter and photographer in her kitchen, there was no evidence of Alisha’s “other life.”

In that “other life,” Alisha, 33, is known as Capt. Alisha Franklin, a nurse with four years of service in the U.S. Army Reserves based in Bell, Calif. In July 2012 she left Ridgecrest, her husband, and her then one-year-old toddler for 10 months in Kuwait as her first military deployment.

“It was really tough to leave,” Alisha said. “It was especially hard to leave Thomas.”

Additionally, she missed cooking, and the foods readily available at home. She is glad to have left behind “shelf-stable” milk and other food items that tasted weird.

When a reporter showed up last Friday for an interview, Alisha was in her kitchen with her slow cooker already making dinner for her family, while she prepared a dessert for friends expected that evening.

As the interview progressed, she continued her work, and her son Thomas eventually awoke from his nap. Later, her husband Mike returned from work, greeted his wife, and snatched a taste from her mixing bowl in the cozy kitchen setting.

Except for the reporter and photographer in her kitchen, there was no evidence of Alisha’s “other life.”

In that “other life,” Alisha, 33, is known as Capt. Alisha Franklin, a nurse with four years of service in the U.S. Army Reserves based in Bell, Calif. In July 2012 she left Ridgecrest, her husband, and her then one-year-old toddler for 10 months in Kuwait as her first military deployment.

“It was really tough to leave,” Alisha said. “It was especially hard to leave Thomas.”

“We used Skype at least once a week to see and talk to each other,” she said. “Fortunately we had an amazing support system here. Thomas got lots of love and extra hugs all the time I was gone. There was always someone around to love him.”

Alisha’s parents live down the street from her home and her mother-in-law also has a place in town. Additionally, the Franklins’ Catholic Church in the All-Faith Chapel and lots of friends were ever ready and on hand to support them.

Mike Franklin, who came to Ridgecrest when he was 12, appreciated the strong local backup team available to him and Thomas while his wife was on deployment. He is a civili service worker at China Lake.

“We had a lot of help that allowed breaks for me. I have a lot of respect for people who stay home without the kind of support system we had,” Mike said.

Before her deployment, Alisha went to training at the Madigan Army Medical Center Hospital, near Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Wash.

“Ironically, I got a lot of comfort from a patient of mine who was recovering at Madigan Hospital,” Alisha said. “In spite of all her pain and being sick, she comforted me and told me things would be all right. She was an Army wife and had been through her husband’s deployments twice. She was an angel to me.”

Alisha’s unit’s mission was to provide medical support for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Before leaving for home, she served as a nurse in a metal shed-like hospital built to move at Camp Buehring along the Iraqi border. Alisha and her co-workers were out in a desert that seemed like the middle of nowhere, two hours from anywhere else by land.

“We were on standby Iraqi action, positioned to be the first to go in if needed,” she said.“At Camp Buehring we were a Role 2 medical facility which means we had limited lab, x-ray and technical capabilities,” she explained.

“Patients requiring higher levels of treatment, including heart-attack patients, would be Medevac’d out in at least 30 minutes.”

At times during her deployment, her unit was divided among four locations, Alisha added. They were part of Combat Support Hospitals (CSH).

“We had everything needed for hospital care, nurses, doctors and equipment needed, including patient administrators and physical therapy technicians. We were set up to move for combat support and we went out in the field to train, setting up tents and equipment as needed.”

She said these CSH camps strongly resembled the facilities shown in the M.A.S.H. television series (1972-1983).

Alisha, along with other nurses and doctors, were serving there as medical support for Army forces, along with some Marines and a few Air Force personnel deployed in the area. The troops were primarily there during infantry and field artillery training missions and field exercises.

Alisha is not counting herself as special for having served this deployment. She considers herself just one person among thousands of U.S. military personnel who have been fighting in the war since Sept. 11, 2001.

Story First Published: 2013-07-03