September 14th, 2011 2:33 PM by Robin Wickman
Just after 9/11, Los Gatos Realtor Michael Frangadakis, 64, went to the U.S. Army recruiting office in San Jose and asked if there was anything an "old soldier from the '60s" could do to help the military as a civilian.
A young buck sergeant gave the Vietnam War veteran a puzzled look and asked him his age. When he told him he was 54 years old, the sergeant and others in the room chuckled upon hearing that someone over the 42-age-limit wanted to join the reserves. "Needless to say, I walked out very embarrassed," remembers Frangadakis.
But as the country went to war following the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Frangadakis wanted to do something to help the young men and women being deployed to the Middle East.
In 2003, he started the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno organization Operation Yellow Ribbon to support local troops and their families. There are more than 60 soldiers from both communities serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Frangadakis.
In 2004, at a meeting with fellow Realtor Don Newhall, he learned that his friend was sad to retire from the California State Military Reserve, a component of the U.S. National Guard trained in Homeland Security.
To his surprise, the organization accepted "older" soldiers and average civilians who want to serve their country and still lead normal lives.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be back in uniform helping train soldiers being deployed on how to save themselves and their buddies," says Frangadakis.
The father of three is now a senior combat life-saving instructor who has taught at every major military base in Northern California. He's also trained in homeland security and is a certified military emergency management specialist, having worked two state emergencies that involved wildfires.
"I wanted our citizens to appreciate what our military was doing for us and the sacrifice involved. I want our troops to feel the gratitude they deserve from all of us, unlike the opposite feelings of the war in the '60s," Frangadakis says about his reasons for starting Operation Yellow Ribbon and joining the state reserves.
This Sunday, as the nation commemorates the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Frangadakis plans to visit the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto to offer emotional support to soldiers dealing with all kinds of post-war issues and needs, including mental health rehabilitation and post-traumatic stress disorder.