|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - September 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Recognition sought for ‘civilian’ war vets
Trinity Standard -
By GREG PEAK
Area news editor
TRINITY – There are more than military veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and one such returnee is seeking to bring recognition to some of the “forgotten” veterans. Frankie Lea, a former Trinity resident who now lives in Tennessee, served two tours in Iraq as a civilian worker. He now considers himself a “civilian veteran” of the war and would like to help others who are in that same position receive recognition. “When people think of Iraq and Afghanistan, they think of our military and the veterans who have fought there. That is appropriate, but people should know there are a lot of civilian veterans of those wars who also have served their country.” Lea noted that the government has hired a number of civilians to take care of things ranging from drinking water and wastewater to the telephone system and trucking services. “Our men and women in uniform are doing a fantastic job and the civilians are over there to provide them with the support they need, on a daily basis,” he said. Lea, who was in Trinity this month to visit his father, James Lea, and sister, Kris Stewart, said he hopes to give those support workers some deserved recognition. His first step was taken in Tennessee after he tried and failed to get a veteran’s license place last year. “I was told you had to have been in the military to get those plates,” he said. With the help of State Rep. Les Winningham, that no longer is true. Earlier this year, a Tennessee law went into effect that allows civilian veterans of conflicts dating back to World War II to obtain the same special state license tags issued to military veterans. “When I first contacted the state representative about this, he said it was a ‘no brainer.’ The civilians who served in combat zones should be entitled to the special license plates. “Its not like we were asking for special benefits. It’s just a license plate that allows people to know that the car is owned by someone who served,” he said. “It started with the Boston Tea Party and the tradition of having civilians serving continues today,” he said. Lea noted that he has written to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office about something similar being done in Texas but said it does not appear that the governor is interested in taking the lead on the issue. “His office sent me back a polite letter suggesting I take the matter up with my state representative if I wanted to have the law changed,” he said. When the law changed in his home state this year, Lea became the first non-military veteran in Tennessee – or in the U.S. for that matter – to be issued a special Iraqi Freedom license plate. His car was awarded the first civilian veteran plates on July 22 in Jackson County, Tenn. A few days later in August, his second car received the second set in Clay County, Tenn. “My property is divided by the county line – part in Jackson County and part in Clay County,” he explained. Lea served in the northeastern part of Baghdad for nine months in 2004 working as a health, safety and environmental inspector under contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. He served from April 2006 through April 2007 in Mosul in northern Iraq under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We were using a Turkish workforce to build overhead protection systems in Mosul,” he explained. From July 2008 to February 2009 he was working in Haiti under contract with the Department of State and currently is working in Ohio under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy. His current assignment is helping dismantle portions of the United States’ aging nuclear weapons production facilities.