Route 66 Connection
Several weeks ago, Mike Franz reached out to me via phone call to The Signal office after reading our veterans page where it’s suggested that veterans may contact me to have their names added to our veterans roster. Every Veterans Day, The Signal publishes every known Santa Clarita Valley veteran’s name. I found Mike on a phone call most engaging and was intrigued by his 20-year Navy career, so we soon met at Canyon Country’s Route 66 restaurant.
Canyon High School
Mike T. Franz was born Jan. 31, 1959, at Burbank’s Saint Mary’s Hospital and he lived with his parents until age 7 in nearby Van Nuys. Mike’s family relocated to Newhall and he attended Canyon High School, graduating June 17, 1977. During high school, Mike’s work ethic began developing while working part-time painting houses, and after graduating he landed a job for five years with Williams Water Proofing Co. It was mandated that Mike become a Roofing Local 36 Union member, requiring him to pay union dues, whether he chose to or not. Meanwhile, Mike being a typical fun-loving young man, began irritating his dad Raymond, a crusty Korean War infantry veteran, and an argument erupted. Mike had been considering military service and all his dad would talk about was his own combat service and how he so wished he had pursued an Army career. So Mike brusquely stated, “Dad, why the heck don’t you just enlist ‘cause that’s all you talk about?” That comment went over badly as Mike was angrily told to get out and a suitcase promptly followed him out the door.
Air Traffic Control
After considering the Army, Mike actually struck up a relationship with a Marine Corps recruiter and strongly considered joining the Marines, but that recruiter ended up actually recommending the Navy. Mike enlisted in the Navy’s delayed entry program in February 1983 and started 12 weeks of boot camp July 5, 1983, at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. Next, Mike was assigned to Naval Support Base Millington, Tennessee, for 14 weeks of air traffic control school, which led him to the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake near Bishop, California. Mike served at China Lake from January 1984 until June 1988 when he proudly received his honorable discharge. Mike returned to his parent’s Newhall home and began freelance electrical work until Dec. 6, 1988, but he missed the U.S. Navy so much that he re-enlisted. First, Mike attended Navy veteran induction for two weeks and was then assigned to Naval Support Base Millington, Tennessee, for eight weeks of advanced carrier air traffic control school.
Two Beautiful Children
Mike met his first wife, who actually was under his command, at China Lake in January 1988 and they dated until she left the Navy, which prompted Mike to re-enlist. They were married in late 1988 in Dallas, and they had two children, son Christopher Sean and daughter Carley Shea, born at Norfolk General Hospital. Mike and his wife divorced in 1995 at Navy Station Kingsville in Texas and coincidentally Mike was assigned to Sasebo, Japan, so his children moved to Dallas with their mother.
Desert Storm Air Controller
Meanwhile, Mike continued his 21-plus-year Navy career. Mike said highlights of his career included serving aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, the USS Belleau Wood amphibious assault ship, stationed at Sasebo Naval Station in Japan, crossing the equator/international dateline, and transiting the Suez Canal. However, Mike’s most cherished memory was serving on the USS Roosevelt during Desert Storm as marshall controller, managing takeoff flights and landings of 10 squadrons of jet fighters. Over 90 jet fighters were landing and departing every 60 seconds, requiring nerves of steel keeping those fighter pilots on schedule and safe. During one 12-hour shift, over 260 sorties were taking off from the USS Roosevelt. Mike was aware that two fighter jets were lost during his watch, with one McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet that disappeared over the Gulf and a Grumman A6 Intruder that flew too low over enemy territory was shot down. Mike had, at times, as many as 60 enlisted air traffic controllers under his command. He said, “It was a critical responsibility and a juggling act keeping air controllers on the job considering so many rules and job requirements. I’m very proud to report that there were no Navy and Marine aviators ever lost on my watch by accidents.”
Second Honorable Discharge
In the summer of 2001, while serving aboard the USS Belleau Wood, Mike was promoted to chief (E7) and on March 18, 2005, Mike retired, receiving his second honorable discharge. Mike served all over the world, having visited over 20 ports of call. While Mike was stationed at Sasebo Naval Base in Japan, he met Philippine national, Angelita Sison, at Club Galaxy, an enlisted man bar and dance hall. Mike said, “When our eyes locked on each other I instantly knew she was for me.” They dated for three years until Mike purchased airfare for Angelita for travel to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, near Reno and they were married July 5, 2000. While stationed at Fallon, Mike was promoted to senior chief controller (E-8). It took Angelita two years to become a U.S. naturalized citizen as she pursued the process legally. Mike and Angelita resided in Fallon until 2011, when they relocated to assist in caring for his 85-year-old mother in her Newhall home.
These days, Mike and Angelita are continuing to care for his mother but as often as possible Mike enjoys riding his 105-year anniversary Harley Davidson motorcycle built in 2008. Mike owns the sixth of 5,000 units produced. Mike is also fond of bowling at Santa Clarita Lanes. Mike is very proud of his U.S. Navy service to America but he is immensely proud of his children as his daughter serves in the Navy Reserves’ Nurses Corps as a lieutenant junior grade (JG). Daughter Carley Shea Franz also recently earned her master’s degree. His grandson, Rodney Padilla, serves as an Air Force captain in Oahu, Hawaii. Mike said, “I prefer hearing American citizens pronounce their appreciation to live in the world’s greatest country and to cease complaining about America. If wasn’t for this country, what would you have?” Mike also says, “I wish to thank all Vietnam veterans. They have my utmost respect and my heartfelt welcome home. GOD bless you always!” Mike T. Franz, you are a great American!