As we touched on earlier, both Fran and Michele had long, challenging careers. We don’t have space to go into them in detail, but we have to pass along the story of Fran as a Navy Seal.
It wasn’t as if he set out to be a military hero. No, Fran finished school – it was vo-tech high school where he focused on computer programming – and got a job offer from American Airlines. But this was during the dark days of the Vietnam War and he got drafted before he could start. He says of that time, “I didn’t know any Congressmen, so I was headed for Vietnam. So I went and signed up for the Navy, where I was supposed to be a computer programmer. In boot camp, a guy come in looking like John Wayne and reads three names. One of the names was Francis Curtis. And then he asks if we want to be Navy Seals. All my relatives who’d been in the service told me ‘Do not volunteer,’ but I said a stupid thing: ‘Er… Er… What the hell?’” That decision led to testing, which Fran passed, which led to the Seal training.
Despite nearly four years in the Navy, Fran says he spent just three days on ships. Instead, as a Seal, he was sent on secret missions to where Vietnam meets Cambodia and Laos, spending much of his time looking for “underwater bridges.” What? Underwater bridges? He explained that in order to avoid American reconnaissance flights and bombings, the Vietnamese built the bridges a couple of two or three feet beneath the water level. His days in Southeast Asia ended when Fran got shot, spent a month in the hospital, and despite insisting that he wanted to return to the war, got assigned to Washington and put to work on White House security. Sadly, this wasn’t the glamorous work of being at White House events; rather, Fran was undercover, out among the crowds outside.
AFTER THE NAVY
After his time as a Seal, Fran moved to California, graduated from San Jose State in Political Science, got accepted to Rutgers Law School, but then his first daughter was born, and that led to a decision to forego law school and open a landscaping business and to serve in the Navy Reserve. But there was something that called to him in military service and he took a job with the Army and travelled back and forth to South America on secret missions.
It was during that time, in 1999, that he and Michele married. Then, after Fran re-retired from the military in 2001, he got a Master’s degree in teaching and started working with at-risk kids, work he found gratifying right up to his full retirement in 2012.
It was during those teaching years that Fran bought a motorcycle, an Indian, and he and Michele started an American Legion Riders group. By the time they left, the group had grown to over a thousand members. One of the group’s volunteer activities, escorting the remains of fallen soldiers to a cemetery, had been taken up by motorcycle groups all over the country.