November 11 is the day we Canadians honour the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.
I would like to introduce you to my personal favourite soldier, Paul Franklin.
Paul and Audra Franklin have been near and dear to my heart for more than a decade. Their relationship predates Lizzie AND Javier. Introducing Javier to them was akin to taking them home to meet mom and dad. They approved!
Meeting Audra was one of those serendipitous moments that changes your life forever. I was a lost little soul living on my own for the first time in Vancouver. I was licking my wounds after a spectacularly painful breakup and in desperate need of a kindred spirit. Audra, and her husband Paul, were a newly engaged couple with a knack for gathering together all sorts of lost soul,s which have become extended family throughout the years.
On the day we met, Audra and I immediately bonded over PMS and a bottle of Advil. We were cashiers at a popular Canadian clothing store and only worked that one shift together. Later that weekend, she introduced me to her fiance Paul, and the three of us, plus a couple of other folks, became immediately inseparable.
Paul and Audra were there the day Lizzie was born and are her godparents. We've enjoyed such a special relationship throughout the years. I was almost as excited when their son was born one year later, as I was about my own daughter.
Paul liked to pretend that we were both his wives when we were all out. Note that he is copping a feel to both of us in the picture above. All in fun, of course.
Like me, it took a long time for Paul to figure out what he wanted to do "when he grew up". He was in his early 30's when he enlisted in the army, training to be a medic. Paul finally found his niche, making us all proud by excelling in his courses and then being deployed to two tours to Afghanistan. His first tour was to Kabul. In the summer of 2005, he was deployed to Khandahar. We were all a bit nervous as we knew this was a more dangerous mission, but none of us really thought anything would happen. I remember the two of us drinking some wine before he went away and making some plans to run the Honolulu Marathon the following December.
In January, 2006, Audra called with the news that Paul had been injured when the armored jeep he was driving was hit by a bomber in a taxi. We learned he was alive but had lost one of his legs. I jumped in the car and headed to Edmonton to be with her and wait for more news.
Master Corporal Paul Franklin survived the attack but lost both his legs above the knees. My brave friend, who ran the Dubai Marathon, competed in mountain man races and skateboarded with his son woke to a new reality. He spends much of his time in a wheelchair, but has also become very adept at managing a shiny pair of "robot" legs.
Audra and Paul have both grown tremendously from this experience. Paul travels frequently given powerfully motivating speeches. Audra realized a strength for working with families facing similar experiences. Paul is using his experience to help other amputees cope and created a charity to support improvements in amputee care (www.http://www.naap.med.ualberta.ca/)
I am so proud of my favourite soldier.