Sergeant’s mission: See son of fallen GI
Army veteran Max Franklin last saw the Roukey family 15 years ago, when he escorted the body of Sgt. Lawrence Roukey to his hometown in Maine after a deadly Baghdad blast.
Now, the Kendallville man, 62, is planning a reunion with a purpose: to watch Roukey’s son, Nick, graduate from high school.
Franklin : Roukey’s platoon sergeant : said he feels a strong need to be part of that milestone considering Roukey cannot.
“I wanted to be there for Nick,” the retired master sergeant said.
Roukey, 33, looked forward to trick-or-treating with his toddler after returning home, Franklin said. He added it always stuck with him that Roukey never got that opportunity.
“Larry loved his son,” Franklin said.
Franklin and Roukey developed “a good bond” in the 21/2months they knew each other, Franklin said, recalling they played one-on-one basketball together and both cheered for Notre Dame.
Franklin reassured Roukey the night before he set out for his first : and what would be his last : mission in Iraq.
“I told him he was going to be OK,” Franklin said. “He never came home from that mission.”
Roukey died six weeks after arriving in Iraq. The Associated Press reported it appeared he was one of two soldiers killed in an explosion after a team looking for chemical weapons raided a warehouse.
Franklin and his former Army team members usually mark Memorial Day sharing condolences about Roukey on Facebook, Franklin said.
“It’s a hurt that will never heal,” he said.
He wants Roukey’s family to know the group still cares about him.
“I want Nick to know his dad will never be forgotten,” he said.
Franklin’s solo motorcycle journey to Maine begins June 5.
Along with his ticket to the commencement ceremony : the school gladly mailed him one after hearing his story : Franklin will bring a gift for the graduate: a bracelet he bought in 2005 in memory of Roukey and the day he was killed. He has worn it daily.
“That will be some closure for me,” Franklin said, “knowing Nick now moves forward in his life as a young adult.”