Rep.-elect Scott Franklin, combat veteran, says too many Americans take freedom for granted

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Rep.-elect Scott Franklin, a former naval aviator, appreciates when others thank him for his military service because it's a sign that America has reached a point where veterans are respected.

But the new incoming GOP Florida congressman thinks of himself as the lucky one.

Flying jets from the decks of aircraft carriers was "the greatest privilege in my life," Franklin will typically say in response to thanks.

Spending 26 years in uniform — split between active duty in the U.S. Navy and the reserves – gave Franklin the satisfaction of fighting for a greater purpose and afforded him the opportunity to experience roughly 60 different countries. He dubbed his overseas missions "U.S. appreciation tours" because they'd remind him just how good Americans have it back home.

Congressional Republican nominee for District 15 Scott Franklin speaks during a Trump voter rally held at the Raymond James voting polling site on Oct. 24, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Americans have the "luxury" of being detached or ill-informed about their government, Franklin said. 

During his run for Congress, where he mounted a primary challenge against Rep. Ross Spano, he was surprised to encounter just how many people didn't know who their congressman was. Franklin suggests the lack of basic civics knowledge is why ideas like socialism are seeping into the mainstream, especially among younger people.

"We've kind of been complacent with our success as a country," Franklin told Fox News in an interview during his congressional orientation. "We have such an abundance of wealth and blessings in our country, and I think too many people don't understand how that came to be and really how precarious our system of government really is. We can't take it for granted and I think too many people do."

The new representative for Central Florida's 15th Congressional District encourages more Americans to learn about their government in order to appreciate their freedoms, whether it's serving in the military, signing up for the Peace Corps or taking civics education courses.

"I just think we need to wake up as a country and get back to our basics of what it takes to keep a free Republic," Franklin said, calling out those who are quick to entertain socialism.

He marvels at the exam questions that immigrants must pass in order to become U.S. citizens and laments that more Americans don't have the same level of knowledge.

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"I would bet probably better than 90% of the people will fail that test if you just grab people off the street and said here's what you got to do to be a citizen. They wouldn't have any idea how to answer those questions," Franklin said. "And we have that luxury."

Rep.-elect Scott Franklin, R-Fla., is a former naval aviator. He’s pictured here in flight gear by a jet in the Northern Arabian Gulf in 1999. Photo courtesy of Scott Franklin for Congress.

Franklin, 56, is relatively new to politics. He spent 20 years as the owner and operator of a Florida regional insurance agency before the small business was sold to a bigger firm in January 2020.

In 2018, Franklin got his start in local politics by running to become a Lakeland City commissioner.

Just two years later, he made the leap to run for Congress to take on Spano, the sitting incumbent, who was caught up in a campaign finance federal investigation. Franklin was concerned "the constant barrage of bad press" against Spano would allow Democrats to flip the district, which extends from Lakeland to the Tampa suburbs.

Franklin touted his military biography and pledged to earn back trust and integrity for Central Florida.

He beat Spano 51% to 49% in the GOP primary. Franklin then defeated Democrat Alan Cohn in November with 55% of the vote.

Franklin, a husband and father of three, campaigned as a pro-President Trump Christian conservative who will fight socialism, reopen the economy and restore law and order.

Rep.-elect Scott Franklin, R-Fla., beat incumbent Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., to win the 15th Congressional District. Photo courtesy of Scott Franklin for Congress.

As he heads to Congress, he's found a bond with fellow veterans from both sides of the aisle and hopes they can unite around a "common mission" to achieve meaningful legislation, especially to address the coronavirus pandemic.

“I'm really hoping to draw on my veteran experience of working with people from all different backgrounds to accomplish the mission," Franklin said.

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Franklin's path to Congress began in 1981 when he traveled to Washington as a student at Lakeland High School. He had joined the Presidential Classroom for Young Americans program in an effort to learn more about civic responsibility and public leadership.

He was posing for a photo at the Lincoln Memorial with his fellow high schoolers when the program organizer remarked that one day some of them could be back to Washington in elected office, Franklin recalled.

After high school, Franklin entered the U.S. Naval Academy and embarked on his Navy career, fulfilling his lifelong dream of flying jets for the military.

"I've never felt the same sort of connection to really a truly greater purpose and good than I had when I served in the military," Franklin said.

Rep.-elect Scott Franklin, R-Fla., is a former naval aviator. He’s pictured here being greeted by his kids in 1999 after returning home from a deployment. Photo courtesy of Scott Franklin for Congress.

Forty years later, Franklin was at the Lincoln Memorial again–this time posing for a photo with the new freshman class as part of congressional orientation.

He was overcome with emotion when he realized he was standing in nearly the exact same spot as that high school photo. He said he welled up with tears over the chance to serve his country again and to fight for a greater cause.

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"It means a lot to me," Franklin said. "I'm just thrilled for an opportunity to be a part of that again. I have missed that."

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