Soldier who became vocal advocate for disabled leaves ‘stagnant’ military career

EDMONTON — A soldier who has become a national advocate for the disabled after losing both his legs in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan says he’s leaving the military, partly because he thinks his injuries have stalled his career.

Master Cpl. Paul Franklin

EDMONTON — A soldier who has become a national advocate for the disabled after losing both his legs in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan says he’s leaving the military, partly because he thinks his injuries have stalled his career.

Master Cpl. Paul Franklin, who now walks on two prosthetic legs, says his situation has prevented him from completing the physical aspect of the courses required to receive promotions or postings to other military bases. He plans to focus on doing more charity working and public speaking as a civilian.

“To be honest, my career is pretty much stagnant,” Franklin, 42, said in an interview Thursday. “There’s no way I could get promoted or posted. So I thought now is the time to take the next step and move forward.”

The 10-year veteran army medic— who has served since the 2006 bombing with 1 Field Ambulance helping other injured soldiers at the base in Edmonton — said his injuries made him ineligible to apply for other military jobs.

“Say someone’s working in Edmonton and there’s a job opportunity in Yellowknife or somewhere cool like Esquimalt, B.C., or Halifax. That won’t be offered to me because I’m considered unfit. So that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to change.”

Military officials in Edmonton referred questions to Department of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa. No one there could immediately be reached for comment.

After he returned to work in Edmonton, he wanted to help train soldiers to handle medical crises during combat. But, he said, military officials didn’t give him the chance to do that. He opted instead to become a casualty support specialist to help other injured soldiers adjust.

He knows first-hand how important medical training can be under fire. When his convoy was attacked in Afghanistan, a fellow soldier applied a tourniquet to what was left of Franklin’s left leg.

Franklin and two other soldiers were badly injured, while Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry was killed in the blast.

Franklin’s gift of the gab and inspiring story of overcoming life-altering injuries has opened many doors for him.

A book entitled “The Long Walk Home” was written about his experiences and there have been countless invitations to speak to community and business groups.

He co-founded the Northern Alberta Amputee Program and the Franklin Foundation, both designed to help others get through the experience of losing a limb. He also helped develop a program called Freedom Through Sport at the University of Alberta. It provides physical activity and sports programs for people with all types of disabilities.

While the military has made great strides in the way it treats injured soldiers, more needs to be done to ensure they have good career opportunities in the Armed Forces, Franklin said.

Franklin’s battlefield injuries have taken a toll not only on his career but on his personal life as well. The pressures of overseas missions and the day-to-day stress of living with his severe disabilities put a strain on his 12-year marriage and he and his wife, Audra, separated earlier this year. She still lives near the base with their son Simon, 10.

When his last official day of work rolls around Nov. 16, there will be a mixture of emotions.

“I feel like I’m giving up. But I also know that I’m not giving up. I’ve done a lot of good, but I’ve got to get over the mind set that I didn’t do enough.”

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