"When war comes, you look for certain special qualities in the people you'll be working with. General Tom Franks embodies those qualities: strength, experience, a keen mind, energy, honor, good humor, and a deep loyalty to his troops and to his country.
"Tom Franks is truly a soldier's soldier."
-- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
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July 31, 2004
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Excerpt from American Soldier by Tommy R. Franks
My understanding of the world and its consequences -- of right and wrong, good and evil -- began when I was five in central Oklahoma. That may be hard to believe, but it's true.
It was my father, Ray Franks, who taught me those lessons.
"You pull up just as hard as you push down, Tommy Ray," Dad said. He was trimming two-by-fours for our barn roof with a handsaw on the tailgate of the old Ford pickup. The saw blade snarled down through the board and ripped up with a thinner sound. His right arm, tanned like leather under the short sleeve of a washed-out shirt, bulged as he leaned his stocky weight into the saw.
It was summer, nice in the shade of the cottonwood trees near the barn. I was barefoot, in faded bib overalls that were getting short in the legs, sitting in the dirt, watching my father work, listening closely, as always, to his soft-spoken words. He smiled a lot and liked to josh around. But when we were alone together, my dad often took a moment to explain the things he'd learned in his life.
"Here, Tommy Ray," he said, tossing me a couple of splintery cuttings. "You can play with these blocks."
"But, Dad, they ain't real toys."
"Aren't real toys," he corrected, flipping another board end to me. "But they are, you see. A few years back, kids had to make do with toys their daddies made for them. They couldn't just drive to the five-and-dime in town and buy ready-made."
I fingered the wood, still hot from the saw blade. "How come?"
He wiped his face with a handkerchief, laid another plank across the tailgate, and lined up the saw. "Well, Tommy Ray, we had a war. Most of the countries in the whole world were fighting. America had to fight the Germans and the Japanese. Millions and millions of guys my age and younger were soldiers and sailors and flyers and had to go fight."