Frank Titus: My One Cent
"Follow those beliefs you hold most deeply"
January 31, 2018
Frank Titus, from Columbus, Ohio has supported CARE since his paper route days. With a long career in the military and in human rights law, Frank is one of CARE’s most valued advocates. This is Frank’s My One Cent story:
I retired from the Air Force as a Colonel. I was a Judge Advocate and Air National Guard Officer for 22 years and enlisted in the Air National Guard or Army National Guard for 13 years. I first became involved with CARE in 1958 when I was twelve years old and sent them half my paper route money for refugee relief in South Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos.
I learned about CARE from a LIFE magazine article about a priest and his congregation who were driven out of North Viet Nam and relocated to the Mi Kong Delta. The priest said that a vital part of their ability to survive was the food relief they received from CARE USA. For me, that was the most compelling part of the story.
My next foreign assistance experience was in 1967. I was an honor scholar in political science at Ohio State and got to sit on dirt floors in thatched huts at the University of Hawaii with students being trained to represent USAID in Viet Nam. It was fascinating.
My military career began on my 17th birthday when I enlisted in the West Virginia Army National Guard. That’s the earliest you can enlist but, your parents have to sign for you. My father was a hardened combat veteran who fought in World War II. He’d begged me not to enter the Armed Forces. Eventually, he relented. Signing my enlistment papers was extremely hard for him, but it was the start of an amazing father-and-son story. From the day I came home from basic training, he was my best friend and I was his.
I went to basic training right after high school and that was a wakeup call. I came from a rural, parochial, high-river village and was suddenly mixed in with people from all walks of life across America. I started with the U.S. Army National Guard, transferred to the Air National Guard and was recalled to active duty in the U.S. Air Force in1968. I actually volunteered to go Viet Nam twice, but was denied both times. The first time, I was still at Ohio State and I volunteered to go with USAID. The program director had just returned from Viet Nam though and told me to come back after graduation because I’d be more useful to him with a degree. When I was recalled for active duty in 1968, I was turned down for deployment because I’d graduated head of my class in my Air Force small arms marksmanship course. The Air Force decided I was worth more to them in the US training troops to go to Viet Nam than I would be in Viet Nam itself.
My dad died when I was 26. We had eight very special years between the time I came home from basic training and the time he passed away. He saw me graduate from Ohio State and the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy. He knew my career was launching. He didn’t get to see all of it but he predicted the rest of my career.
After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I did a one-year masters program in journalism and a four-year night program at Capitol University Law School - all on the GI Bill. I used all those skills in the military and eventually, in 1998, I was sent to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations Training Unit as a Colonel and International Humanitarian Law Instructor. I flew all over the world training troops from 44 countries to go on UN Peacekeeping missions.
My military background made me an effective congressional briefer on serious foreign assistance matters with the United Nations Association, Oxfam America, the US Global Leadership Coalition and CARE. My military history lends credibility to my presence at these meetings.
I’m at a point now where I get to mentor young people and I tell them to follow the passions of their life. Follow those beliefs that you hold most deeply. Most young people have no idea how great their potential is. I didn’t understand mine until the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces appointed me, a kid from the Appalachians, to United Nations headquarters in New York City.
Our country and the world are going through difficult times, but we’ve been through them before. The Viet Nam era was a time of incredible tumult in this country. Miraculously, we did not rip ourselves apart and we won’t this time either. America is going to be OK. The world is going to be OK, but we aren’t going to be OK easily. Figuring out foreign assistance and global security will take time and effort, but we’re going to get through this.