Exclusive interview with author "Aurea Franklin"
Aurea Franklin is a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division who is releasing her debut book, “Silent Freedom.” The captivating memoir details her time spent at war in Iraq and discusses life as a soldier, both at home and at war, and the triumphs and difficulties that come with it.
“Silent Freedom” illustrates the unpredictability of life in war. She recounts multiple instances of living on the edge as if walking on a thin wire not knowing if it would be her and her unit’s last time to breathe. Faith and hope played a key role in her journey allowing her to take a grip on the difficulties in battle and survive combat with sense of purpose while she experienced the darkest corners of the warzone in Iraq. The book is a story of courage, love, loss, and purpose and demonstrates how faith and hope can make for a better future and offer a world of difference in your outlook.
In addition, Franklin holds three master’s degrees: two Masters of Business Administration and one Master of Public Administration. She works in Washington, D.C., and continues to support various veteran’s programs. She is proud to be a lifetime member of the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC), previously serving as chairwoman of FAPAC’s Mentoring Program and currently serving as Committee Advisor. We caught up with Aurea for an exclusive interview.
Tell us a bit about your background.
Aurea: I am a Filipina, born and raised in the Philippines. I was married to a pen-pal. We met through my fellow instructor from the university. He came over to the Philippines and he got along with my family; at first with my uncles and aunt, and then my parents. We had a grand wedding, and the entire village was invited. My brother was the chef and cooked palatable Filipino and American foods, such as lechon or roasted pig, kaldereta, which is a classic Filipino stew, and more. We had a dozen sponsors, or we call them Ninong and Ninang. The wedding went well, and Sol and I had a good time touring Banaue City and the Banaue Rice Terraces, used to be one of the eight wonders of the world in Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao mountains, Philippines. After the wedding, Sol took me to the United States in his hometown in Honolulu, Hawaii. Later on, he got sick, and passed away. After Sol passed away, I met a fellow soldier, a Warrant Officer and I remarried. We have a young son. After 20 years of marriage, we got divorced. I was going through a divorce, a mother leaving a young son behind, and I also was a soldier and can’t say no. I went to Iraq to fight the war.
What inspired you to write Silent Freedom?
Aurea: My miracles, my service, love, loss, and war from a woman’s viewpoint. Additionally, how women are seen in a place of conflict, like Iraq.
My Miracles are Outlined Below:
My miracles in Iraq while I was trying to rejoin my unit in the northern part of Iraq, called Mosul, the final resting of Jonah. God sent me St. Michael disguised as a pilot. He suddenly showed up and said he was there to pick up a litter patient. My fellow soldier and I who were working on that day told him there were no litter patients or any patients waiting to be picked up. I was screaming silently, finally, let it out and said, “I want to become your passenger.”And he told me to pick up my gears and will meet me at the helipad in 20 minutes.
My second miracle was when a soldier showed up to give me a ride to the helipad to make it on time to the helipad. After shoving all my uniform and gears to the duffle bag and trash bags, I needed a gator to make it on time to the helipad. Then a soldier showed up with a gator. I felt tears welling up in my eyes with all the miracles happening in my life that day. First, God sent me St. Michael to give me a ride and rejoin my unit to Mosul, a soldier to help me with my gears in trash bags and made it to the helipad on time.
My third miracle is seeing the first soldier with a 101st airborne division combat patch who put me on the list to ride a chinook en route to pick up a tank engine and then go to Mosul. My Commanding Officer and the First Sergeant were very surprised to see me made it to Mosul. They can’t believe I made it. My Commanding Officer said that it was impossible to go to Mosul. There were only two ways; catch a ground assault convoy (GAC) or by air. Neither one wanted to take me. My Commanding Officer said it will take a miracle to get to Mosul. And I told him it’s exactly what happened.
What were the biggest challenges of writing such a personal story?
Aurea: Time, emotions, and remembering what my fellow soldiers went through. It was difficult to remember the Battalion Commander and soldiers who were ambushed; the Command Sergeant Major who was killed by Iraqi teenagers who threw a rock on their windshield and slit their throats; the young private who stepped on a landmine and died; the warriors who died from helicopter crash hit by Rocket-propelled Grenades (RPGs); the soldiers who were hit by another RPG while they were taking a break from work; the soldiers who were wounded when a foreigner drove a truck through them; the soldiers who were killed when a soldier threw a grenade in their tents, and the non-combatant casualties.
Also, it is an indelible experience to remember watching the planes hitting the twin towers, people jumping from the buildings and the billowing smoke coming out of the buildings. How could we forget? My silent freedom called me to serve my country in multiple deployments and to protect the people. It took me to the war zone after President George W. Bush declared war against Iraq on March 20, 2003 at 0800 Zulu time. I deployed with the 101st Airborne Division, Air Assault (AASLT), and headquartered at Mosul, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 (OIF I). Mosul was believed to be the final resting place of the biblical prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale and who warned inhabitants of the Assyrian city of Nineveh, now known as Mosul, that God would destroy them if they did not repent from their sins. During OIF I, it became a hotbed of terror, with extremists free to launch RPGs and air missiles against military facilities in Iraq. We were in Mosul pursuing the liberation of the Iraqis from the authoritarian rule of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of his weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs.
Can you tell us how faith plays a role in your life and overcoming all of the hardships at war in Iraq?
Aurea: Faith and hope helped me maintain my silent freedom at the helm. They liberated my soul and helped me navigate the darkest corners of the war zone in Iraq a lot easier. With my faith and hope, I know I can help make a difference.
Did you experience any specific challenges as a woman in The 101st Airborne Division?
Aurea: I didn’t feel discriminated against. My chain of command and fellow soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division treated me well and respected me as a woman. I went outside the wire to conduct humanitarian missions. However, as a woman, I was not allowed to join our foot soldiers who searched for Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. During my time, I didn’t know any women in the cordon and search looking for Saddam Hussein, the bad guys, and his weapons of mass destruction.
What would you like readers to take away from My Silent Freedom?
Aurea: Faith and hope can make a huge difference. They will make burdens light, survive the war and challenges of life.
Are you working on any other books?
Aurea: Yes, I am writing novels.
To learn more about Aurea and her book visit: silentfreedom101st.com