Today is Veteran’s Day and I am the daughter of a Veteran and American hero.

I was recently cleaning out our guest room which had become our designated junk zone, and found my copy of “A Nightmare’s Prayer” by Ret. United States Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael Franzak.  I literally had to blow dust off of it because it had been sitting for so long.

Author Mike Franzak's book A Nightmare's Prayer
The Cover of A Nightmare’s Prayer

I flipped the book open and on the first page it reads, “To Audria, Daughter of a Marine and American hero. All the best in every endeavor.  Semper Fi, Michael Franzak, Nightmare 63 & wingman of your father, Capt Mike Trapp, Nightmare 64.”

The middle of the book has some photos in it, some of my dad, so I took the book with me to work to lay out on my desk since I have joined a new team recently.

Several people stopped to actually look at it, which was great, but I’m also not surprised because my new team at work is comprised of story tellers and writers.  I even learned that one of my coworker’s father’s was a helicopter pilot in the Army, and another lit up and said “cool, thank him for his service for me,” as she walked away.  I thanked her for hers as well, she is retired from the Air Force.

Total Sidenote:  “Thank you for Your Service,” is a recent episode of the New Curb Your Enthusiasm season, and is hilarious and you must watch it if you’re a Larry David fan.

VMA 513 Harriers flying in Formation
Harriers flying in formation.

Any-who, as the day wound down yesterday, I decided to pick the book up and start reading it.  I had about an hour and a half left of work and the office was quiet, so I figured there was no better way to honor Veterans Day than to read a book about my Dad.  I did want to write something on my blog, but decided I hadn’t given myself enough time to prepare a quality piece, maybe next year.

A Nightmare’s Prayer was published about 7 years ago.  My Dad and his wingman, Mike Franzak, who wrote the book, returned from war 13 years ago. I was in high school.

When the book came out, I was super pumped about it.  Cool! My dad is going to be in a book! I went out and found it at some obscure Barnes & Noble that had it up in north Scottsdale since I was in college at the time. I excitedly flipped through it looking at the few photos and skimming it looking for my dad’s call sign which was “Yap”.

Photo shared by Mike Franzak
A photo shared by Mike Franzak, author, on A Nightmare’s Prayer’s Facebook Page. “This shot is one of my favorites. It was taken with ODA 2056 after they made it out of the field. My wingman, Mike Trapp and I supported them when they were ambushed by Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan.”

The truth is, I never truly read it.  Until yesterday.

Early on in the story, a familiar name surfaced, another wingman in the story.  He happens to be one of my dear friends’ step dads.  Well I hate even calling him a step dad, he’s her dad.  Nonetheless, I texted my friend to tell her that I was reading the book and it was cool to see his name in there.

She had a confession for me; she owned the book too, but like me had never read it.  She was afraid of the words that this book has in it. I told her not to be, it’s a cool story and she should be proud.

Robin Williams visits the troops.
A pic with the late Robin Williams, who paid a visit to the troops.

I read straight through my last hour of work, not being able to put the book down.  I had to grab a tissue a few times, the author captivated me through his description of the day they deployed out of Yuma, Arizona.  He talks about the wives and children at the hangar, the emotions, the way the harriers flew out in formation.  It was bringing back those moments so vividly for me.

Along with those moments, a well of emotions that I have since tucked away.

When you are 13 years old, and your parents sit you down to tell you that your daddy is going away for (just a little while) to fly in the war, it’s shocking.  You don’t even know what it means, you don’t even understand how you’re supposed to feel.  I do remember crying, but my parents assured me that my dad would be safe as a pilot, and thankfully that turned out to be true.

Thumbs up after a successful ride.

When you live a life of a military child, these moments of shock happen quite frequently, and you learn to cope and in my case, not truly understand the gravity of the situation.

I have flashes of memories tied to the military life my family endured.  I remember when I was so so little, my mom running on concrete waving, tears streaming down her face, as we watched a plane ascend into the air with my dad on it, I believe heading to Okinawa, Japan.

I remember the day my mom found out that my dad had been accepted into flight school and she came excitedly bursting into my room with the news.

I had no idea that that news would mean me going to 4 different middle schools in 4 different states, but we got through it.

I remember going into the control tower as my dad did a touch and go in his trainer airplane, and the radio mic being passed to me. The staff was smiling big at me as my dad approached the runway, stating he was preparing to fly his plane down over the radio. I was tasked with giving a hearty “roger ball, daddy” as he requested permission to touch down and re-ascend into the sky.

I remember the fear as we got the news that a jet went down during a training session on a carrier ship in the ocean from one of the pilot’s wives, my mom trying to stay optimistic that my dad was ok.  Turns out, it was his wingman, my dad saw the whole thing happen. Again, intense feelings that I wasn’t sure what to do with followed by immense sadness for my dad.

I remember watching my dad hover his AV-8 B Harrier right above the tarmac as we all covered our ears from the engine roaring, the ground shaking.  It was bad ass.

There’s many memories, but those are ones that stick out the most.  There’s also a lot of details my dad didn’t share about his trainings and the war, and I don’t blame him.

Some stogies during war.

Flash forward back to yesterday, I ultimately picked up the book to see if I could find any snippets to support me writing about my dad and his time in the war.

I quickly realized the story here is me, and the evolution of emotions that I have worked through as a Veteran’s daughter.

I don’t think it was until yesterday, that I truly had the capacity to read and understand “A Nightmare’s Prayer.” War comes with many prices, and one aspect of that is a strained home family life.

We were thrilled that my dad was home safely, but things were different.  My dad had come home 6 months into his deployment, with news that he had to go back.  We were crushed.  When he returned after another 6 months, my mom was only 3 months away from giving birth to my youngest brother.

I did love people’s faces when my mom said “My husband is returning home after being at war for a year,” as her bulging belly was clearly about 6 months along. Ha!

My youngest brother.

I was a teenager, going through normal teenager things, while my father was absent, my mom was pregnant about to start an entirely different chapter of life, and I was leaving for college.  It was a strange place to be in and I wasn’t really sure how I fit into everything.  I’ll admit my teenage angst got in the way, but now that I can reflect back a little older and wiser, I was hurt.

I didn’t have the tools to properly manage my intense feelings.  Like usual, I stuffed them down and carried on, going through the motions of life, completely forgetting that I had unfinished business with myself.

Reading A Nightmare’s Prayer was the emotional release I needed and I think there’s a reason that I waited until yesterday to finally read it.

I came home to my in-laws who were watching our daughter and told them about the book, and read some excerpts to them, in tears.  I was glued to the pages all night as Tom watched our daughter, tears never ending.

My husband was concerned about me of course my, but I promised him I was ok, because I am. Truthfully, I’ve never ever been better. I tried to put into words for him, and I’ll try to put it into words here.

Above all, I am proud of my father.  I’ve always known he accomplished some pretty big things in the war, proven by receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross Award and his thousands of combat flying hours. To see the words in ink about his actions, and to have context about the emotional hardships endured by him and his fellow pilots was just the icing on the cake.

I am so thankful to Mike Franzak for putting his memoir into words and for being so eloquent about it.  We will cherish this story forever.  You can tell that he respects my dad and it shows in his writing.

Reading this book made me face my fear, because I realized that I also was afraid of the story the pages held.  I do hope my friend comes around to reading it too.

The tears streaming down my face as I read this book indicated energy there that I never realized I needed to release.  I was holding on to something deep down that felt so good to let go of.  I got a glimpse into my father’s world briefly through the pages of this book.  I got to relive some of the moments that declared my dad an American Hero.

My dad during his time in Iraq, after his time in Afghanistan.

I am so proud that Captain Mike “Yap” Trapp is my dad, and that his decisions saved the lives of others and brought him home safely.  I’d like to share some words from “A Nightmare’s Prayer.”

Captain Mike “Yap” Trapp was a talkative former enlisted Marine who had previously served as an intelligence analyst. Yap was the kind of pilot I liked.  He took to the books, studying the threat, memorizing the enemy radar frequencies and capabilities as well as the SAM systems and threat aircraft. He viewed the job as I did. It wasn’t about being a jet jock- it was about being an attack pilot.” Page 170

There is a part shortly after that where the author realizes he may have started to doze off in the cockpit, coming to in a dream like state…..

…Cold thoughts of death remained as I tried to play off my mistake.

“Nightmare 32, how’s it going over there?” I called to Yap.  I did not care to divulge my angst.

Yap responded immediately, breaking the night’s monotony. “Not seeing much. Just a few assorted fires and no vehicles. How about you?”

“Same, Nightmare 32. Hey, I’m feeling a little groggy up here. Do you mind if we chat for a while? Can you tell me a story or a joke or something about your family?” My request sounded corny, cheap, and void of any masculinity.

There was a long pause.  Yap was unsure how to respond. “Uh, sure, Nightmare 31.” A longer pause followed. “Did you hear about the American, the Englishman, and the Frenchman who were flying over the Hindu Kush in an old beat-up DC-3?” Yap talked and brought me around while I placed dip after dip of Skoal inside my lower lip.” Page 172

Later in the book….

I had flown with Captain Mike “Yap” Trapp over fifty times but I never realized how lucky I was to have him as my wingman until then.  He did all the good things a wingman does.  He kept quiet, listened, and backed me up. He also used his binoculars to point things out I couldn’t see. The same guy who kept me awake- and alive- over the Khyber Pass was now backing my every move. Page 215

The part I had to sit with for a moment….

Playboy responded, “Nightmare 64, from lead’s hits southwest four hundred. Cleared hot.”

I yanked the nose of my jet back east to provide high cover for Yap’s gun run. As Yap sank low in the valley, a torch of yellow fire belched from the bottom of his Harrier. Transfixed by the flame, I awestruck in disbelief. Ho-ly shit! This – isn’t training.

“Nightmare 64 off west, blind,” Yap called out as he pulled his Harrier upward, letting me know his attack was complete but he he didn’t have me in sight. Page 219

Mike Franzak and my father Mike Trapp were later honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross award for their contributions to the war.

Now that I feel I’m beginning to truly process all of this as an adult, I am becoming more proud of our family.  I was born to a couple of kids having a kid, and my dad joined the military to serve his country and provide a better life for us.  I will be forever grateful of that.

As a mother myself now, I can’t imagine the anxieties of a single mom and military wife my mom was facing.  She was doing the best she could for us and I recognize and appreciate that.

Enlisted Marine Mike Trapp.
Big tough 19 year old Marine.

When my dad retired in 2011, our family as a whole was honored because the military recognizes that sacrifice extends beyond the service man or woman. We see the ripple effect most usually when tragedy strikes, but I know the same is true when people are proud of you.

Capt. Mike Trapp- you have so many people, including me, who are very proud of you.  I will make sure my children grow up knowing the sacrifice you’ve made for us and your country.  Thank you for serving and for being the best you can be.

Lt. Col Franzak, if you happen to see this, thank you for taking the time to commemorate a significant time in our country’s history and time in our lives, I am so grateful to you too.

And if you’re reading this and have served your country, or have sacrificed as a daughter or wife or husband or brother or sister, or parent.  Thank you to you too.

Happy Birthday Marines, Semper Fi.

Happy Veteran’s Day.

With gratitude, Audria
The Daughter of an American Hero

 

9 thoughts on “The Daughter of an American Hero”

  1. Such a beautiful tribute, Audria. I am also guilty of not reading the book. Just like you, I flipped through the pages, reading a page or 2, but afraid to read about the truth of what they faced. I will honor your dad, Lt. Col. Franzak, and all those who served and read this book. Thank you for this beautiful post!

    Aunt Meredith

  2. I had the pleasure of serving with your father during my time in VMA-513. He was my OIC. Reading your story and seeing how you reflected on the past reminded me of somthing.

    When you spoke about him coming home from Afghanistan, I accompanied him during the trip back. I can distinctly remember Listening to your father talk about how he couldn’t wait to get back home to his family. I actually think I have a photo or two of him in Germany during our layover.

    In parting I will say Captain Mike Trapp was ALWAYS a honest, straightforward and understand leader. He would treat the enlisted with respect just as he did the officers. It was truly a pleasure to serve with him.

    Respectfully,

    Sgt Nicholas Read.

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