Marvin “Lyle” Franklin Jr. was born on July 15, 1945 in Oklahoma City, where he graduated from Putnam City High School in 1963. He was a member of the Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the Putnam City Methodist Church, and the Bethany Masonic Lodge where he served as Senior DeMolay. He was an automobile and woodworking enthusiast whose hobbies included rebuilding car engines and restoring furniture.
In 1965, he enlisted in the United States Army. He was initially assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment “Old Guard” as an Infantryman. He served as a Sentinel and Assistant Relief Commander at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from July 1966 until February 1967. During this time he was awarded the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) #56, which is the second least awarded badge in the US Army.
After his service in the Old Guard, he was assigned to the A Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division (Air Mobile) and sent to Vietnam in March 15, 1967.
Former 2nd Relief Commander Sergeant Irvin Emerson (1966-68) remembers when Marvin got his orders for Vietnam; “He was by heritage a Native American, and both his Grandfather and Father were chiefs of the counsel. Marvin was in line to be a chief, so he didn’t have to go. No one knew this, and Marvin would never use it to dodge his duty.”
On arrival at the 1st Cavalry Division base camp, all soldiers such as Sergeant Franklin attended a mandatory course on combat air assault tactics, rappelling, guerrilla warfare, and other subjects. The 2/8 Cavalry Regiment, also known as the “Mustangs “, were sent to Vietnam in September 1965. The Mustangs saw some of the fiercest battles and actively patrolled the jungles of Vietnam to the north and south of Highway 1, east of Bien Hoa, until it stood down in June 1972.
Sergeant Franklin was killed in action on the night of August 31st, 1967 at Binh Dinh, South Vietnam while on patrol.
Former Sergeant of the Guard (SOG), Master Sergeant Thomas Bone (1959-62) remembers, “It was a terrible shock when we received the news that a fellow Tomb Guard, Marvin, had been killed in Vietnam. I was extremely pleased when asked by the Old Guard Commander to go to Oklahoma and assist the Franklin family in setting up the military honors for Marvin. I was met at the airport by family members and taken directly to the family home.”
While planning on staying a local hotel, SOG Bone stated that the family wouldn’t have it and they “insisted that I stay at their home. I felt very at ease with the family and decided to stay with them.” SOG Bone stated that a local military funeral detail was sent to perform the final honors, and he started training them to Old Guard standards the next morning. “I would have loved to have old guard members for the service, but must admit that those men did an outstanding job and the family was well pleased.”
Sergeant Franklin’s awards and decorations include: Bronze Star w/”V” Device, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal. National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Tomb Guard Identification Badge, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
The passing of Sergeant Marvin L. Franklin, Jr may be forgotten by most…but not by the Tomb Guards and the Soldiers he served with in Vietnam. As Sergeant Emerson remembers, “I look at pictures he took of me and pictures I took of him, I think about all the grave sites that overtook the open spaces at Arlington while I was there and I still cry. One of the pictures I have in my living room is of all the Tomb Guards at a wreath laying on Christmas Morning 1966, honoring the Unknowns. Marvin is next to me… but the following Christmas he was gone.”
During the years following Sergeant Franklin’s burial, SOG Bone formed a very special bond with his parents, Phyllis and Marvin, Sr. In 1968 they were invited to take part as the first civilians to participate in the Tomb Guards Christmas morning wreath laying ceremony.
Written by Gavin McIlvenna, SHGTUS Vice President