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The Walkups: Army service is in their blood

Five young men standing in a line, wearing the same t-shirt and pants Three of the nine Walkups – Army Capt. Jacob Farmer (family friend), Capt. Benford (Mitch) Walkup, Sgt. Franz Walkup, Carlos Jerez (family friend) and Capt. Kevin Walkup (left to right) wearing matching t-shirts honoring their brother and friend, Army 1st Lt. Frank Walk-up. (Courtesy Photo.)

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When Franz Walkup emphatically states that the U.S. Army is ‘the family business,’ he isn’t kidding.

In military terms, former Army Sgt. Franz Walkup is considered a “legacy,” partly due to the fact that he’s one of nine siblings where nearly all have served or will serve active duty, and partly because his family’s military service goes back generations.

According to the Tennessee native, the Walkup family’s military service can be traced back all the way back to the Revolutionary War when Captain James Alexander Walkup and Private Samuel Walkup both served in North Carolina. Franz’s grandfather was a Sailor who served during Vietnam, and his father served in the Army from 1986 to 1995.

Frank

For Franz, his enlistment in 2010 was very personal and came nearly three years after his older brother Army 1st Lt. Frank B. Walkup, VI was killed by a roadside improvised explosive device in June 2007 in Iraq. Frank was a 23-yr old infantry officer with the 25th Infantry Division when the IED struck his dismounted patrol.

“The loss of my brother is what made me join the military,” explained Franz Walkup. “It was in his honor. The same reason I continue to push myself today.”

Franz

Franz’s first combat experience came when he deployed with the 1st Infantry Division to a Iraq from Nov. 2010 to Nov. 2011. After roughly a year stateside, Sgt. Franz Walkup was then deployed to Afghanistan, and served as a fire support sergeant (13F), with the 173d Airborne Brigade near the Tangi Valley. On Sept 29, 2012, his 16-man patrol was hit by an insider attack when two Afghani National Army soldiers opened fire on his unit and initiated a 45-minute firefight involving multiple Taliban insurgents. The attack left two Americans and two Afghan soldiers dead, and three American and four Afghan soldiers wounded. 

Franz was one of those three Americans who were injured as he was shot five times during the skirmish.

Young man with prosthetic leg, showing off muscles
Franz Walkup makes the most of his life as a civilian working out, building and shooting rifles, and riding his side-by-side quad in the mountains, and cheering for the University of Tennessee’s football team. (Courtesy Photo.)

“When I was injured, they flew me to Forward Operating Base Shank, and then to Landstuhl [Regional Medical Center] in Germany,” explained Franz. “I was there for a long time and was projected not to make it, which is why they flew my then-wife and mother and father out to Germany to see me.”

After being medical evacuated from Afghanistan, Franz spent three long years recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

“WRNMMC was a great place to be treated,” Walkup elated. “I would not be where I am today without the amazing staff at Walter Reed. I owe my life to the amazing doctors, nurses and therapists that work there.”

Although Franz had planned to serve 20+ years and retire, he knew that he wasn’t going to be able to continue, and he medically retired in 2015 after six years of service.

“My recovery time at Walter Reed was from October 2012 to June of 2015, and from September 2017 to March of 2018 when I was recovering from my right leg amputation,” he added.

The siblings

Of his seven living siblings, two are active-duty Army captains and two more are in Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Course (ROTC).

Franz’s next closest brother, Army Capt. Benford (aka Mitch) Walkup, who currently serves as a psychological operations officer with 8th Psychology Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Following Mitch in the family pecking order is Kevin, who serves as a logistician with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) base at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Kevin joined the Army in part because it was ‘family driven,’ but also for the opportunities it offered including the travel. “I couldn’t even imagine a lifestyle without the Army,” stated Army Capt. Kevin Walkup, as he explained his desire to continue to serve a career in the Army.

While Frank, Mitch and Kevin graduated from the University of Tennessee, Franz’s youngest brothers, Jake and Josh (also known as “the twins”) both plan to enter the Army after graduating from Tennessee Tech University.

While not in the Army, one of his two sisters, Nina–is married to an Army logistics officer currently stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

“As a Wounded Warrior and veteran, I believe my responsibilities are to be able to inspire and show that people that just because you are injured and disabled you can still strive to be the best you can be,” stated Franz Walkup. “That and being able to still be able to work and provide for my family is a privilege.”

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