Veterans' Voices: Promoting Peace Locally After Serving In Vietnam
Air Force veteran Lonnie Franks from Dayton who returned from his military service in Vietnam with a changed attitude. Franks talked with his daughter, Judy Atlagh, about his decision to go to war in Vietnam, and then, later in life, to promote peace in Dayton.
Judy Atlagh (JA): Dad, I know you joined the military way back when Vietnam was still a thing. I'd be interested in knowing a little bit of background leading up to that choice to join the military.
Lonnie Franks (LF): Sure. I had heard a speech from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a very moving speech talking about how people were being duped and he was very anti-war. And so my father was very angry with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And so I didn't know what was going on in Vietnam. So I did join so I could figure out what was going on in Vietnam.
JA: What was your decision?
JA: Like your dad not agreeing with Martin Luther King Junior and …
LF: Well, so after two years in Southeast Asia, it was pretty obvious to me that our reasons for being there, how we got in, how we stayed there, the level of troops that were engaged. It was pretty much the American people were being lied to, the troops were being lied to.
JA: So they had their own agenda. Which is true for most governments in most situations. Correct?
LF: Which happens in government, people thinking they know better than us.
JA: So my thought process leading me to your service with the Peace Museum here in Dayton, which is the only brick and mortar peace museum in the United States, is that correct?
LF: The Dayton International Peace Museum is, I believe, the only brick and mortar peace museum in the United States. There are sixty in Japan, I believe …
JA: Way ahead of us.
LF: … there are four hundred and thirty-two military museums in the United States. A very nice museum, the U.S. Air Force Museum here in Dayton, which is a good museum. But I do think that where your heart is, your money goes, where your money goes, you build structures and organizations. So there's probably about three hundred people here in Dayton, maybe three hundred and fifty that really work hard at the Peace Museum and support the Peace Museum. I support the Peace Museum because I really do believe that children in particular, but also adults, need to every day think about nonviolence as a means of achieving good ends and for themselves and society, so I like the peace museum. I work hard for the peace museum.
JA: It seems like your life has come sort of full circle in that part of your reason for joining the military had to do with seeing whether your dad was right or Martin Luther King was right. You, unlike most people probably, went out into the world to discover that for yourself. Do you feel like you're done discovering?
LF: Oh, I hope not. No.
JA: Okay, so I know you and I know that you have the four L's of your philosophy of life. Can you share those with us?
LF: Live, love, learn, and leave a legacy.
JA: So, on an ending note, what is your legacy? How do you see yourself leaving that legacy to the future of our world?
LF: I think the peace museum here in Dayton is a nice legacy.
JA: I agree with you. And you have seven beautiful grandchildren who would have all been through there and would attest to that.
LF: I do have seven beautiful grandchildren.
JA: We really appreciate that and love you so much.
LF: Thank you.
Lonnie Franks and Judy Atlagh's conversation took place at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer.
Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource.
This story was edited by Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.