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Cpl. Daniel J. Franke, K9 handler, Company A, Headquarters Battalion, smiles with Sgt. Maj. Robert Caldwell, III Marine Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, sergeant major, after Franke was awarded the Purple Heart Medal Dec. 15, 2011. Franke’s parent command is IIII MHG, III MEF.

Photo by Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

Earning the Purple Heart

22 Dec 2011 | Lance Cpl. Ali Azimi

Cpl. Daniel J. Franke walked across a bridge in Afghanistan unaware of the pressure plate ahead. There was an explosion, and he lost consciousness for a couple of seconds.

When he woke up, he realized what had happened and that’s when the pain set in. Franke, K9 handler, Company A, Headquarters Battalion, lost his leg after stepping on that pressure plate.

“He is the most honest, hardworking guy I’ve ever met,” said Cpl. Gary L. Elbrecht, K9 handler, Co. A, HQBN. “I was devastated to hear what had happened.”

In honor of what he had given in the line of duty, Franke was awarded the Purple Heart Medal in a ceremony Dec. 15, 2011, in front of the Combat Center’s command deck.

“This denotes sacrifice; an individual that has made a tremendous sacrifice on behalf of our nation and our Corps,” said Brig. Gen. George W. Smith, commanding general, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. “In this case today, Cpl. Franke”

A formation of Marines stood at the bottom of the flag pole in complete silence.

The Stars and Stripes waved high over the formation of Marines as the ceremony continued beneath it and Smith pinned the Purple Heart onto Franke’s left breast pocket.

Afterward, everyone at the ceremony stepped up to Franke to shake his hand. There were no congratulations made, as most medals would encourage. The Purple Heart is a medal that demands honor and thanks, but not congratulations.

“When you wear this from this day forward, you are afforded an unprecedented level of respect,” said Smith, addressing Franke directly. “You stand in a unique category.”

In stark contrast to the solemn expressions on others’ faces, Franke went through the ceremony with a smile. Before it had begun he was smiling and joking with the other Marines and after, he shook hands as if giving a leg for his country was no big deal.

“He’s got a real positive outlook on everything,” said Elbrecht, who has known Franke since military police school. “He’s probably just excited to get his artificial leg so he can get back on his Harley.”

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