ONE AMER­I­CAN FAM­ILY

The Covington News - - SPORTS - PETE MECCA COLUM­NIST Pete Mecca is a Viet­nam vet­eran, colum­nist and free­lance writer. You can reach him at avet­er­ansstory@gmail.com or avet­er­ansstory.us.

Michael Barry Turner ar­rived in Viet­nam on Fe­bru­ary 11, 1968, smack-dab in the mid­dle of the largest Com­mu­nist of­fen­sive of the war. The Tet Of­fen­sive kicked off on Jan­uary 31 at the be­gin­ning of a mu­tu­ally un­der­stood ‘cease­fire’ by the bel­liger­ents for the yearly Viet­namese cel­e­bra­tion. This year, how­ever, the Com­mu­nists used the sab­bat­i­cal as their launch date for a na­tion­wide as­sault.

Hue, South Viet­nam’s third largest city, was one of the pri­mary tar­gets. Bi­sected by the Huong (Per­fume) River, the north bank com­prises two-thirds of the town, no­tably the Ci­tadel, a walled city that once housed the an­cient Im­pe­rial Palace. Per­haps more po­lit­i­cal than mil­i­tary, the Com­mu­nists rec­og­nized the psy­cho­so­matic im­por­tance of its cap­ture and oc­cu­pa­tion. The Viet Cong ban­ner flew above the Ci­tadel for the next 25 days.

Amer­i­can Marines and soldiers from South Viet­namese air­borne and ar­mored cav­alry units poured into the bat­tle. While el­e­ments of the Army’s 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion en­gaged in heavy ac­tion in the out­ly­ing ar­eas, Marines and South Viet­namese soldiers slugged it out with the Com­mu­nists in house-to-house fight­ing. The strug­gle was a bru­tal, no-quar­ters af­fair with heavy ca­su­al­ties.

Ma­rine Pfc. Michael Barry Turner, fresh from the states, joined the fight for Hue un­der con­di­tions sim­i­lar to WWII street-fight­ing in Europe and Italy. Within hours Mike ma­tured into a com­bat vet­eran. On Fe­bru­ary 18, a sniper caught the young Ma­rine in his crosshairs. Mike had been ‘in-coun­try’ ex­actly one week. He was 19 years old.

Mike’s younger brother, Dan, was 14 years old when a Lutheran pas­tor ac­com­pa­nied by a sharply dressed Ma­rine rang the door­bell. Once Dan opened the door, he re­al­ized the mag­ni­tude of the mo­ment. “I knew I had to get mom,” he said. Dorothy Turner’s re­ac­tion was un­ex­pected. Dan Turner: “I had to put my­self be­tween mom and the Ma­rine while Pas­tor Kinsler tried to soothe the sit­u­a­tion. At first mom was out­raged, kick­ing, swing­ing, curs­ing, un­til she fell to the floor in ab­so­lute grief.”

Dan’s fa­ther, O.L. “Bud” Turner was like­wise con­sumed with grief. “Dad went over the edge for at least a week,” Dan re­called. “It was tough on both of them.”

The Turn­ers’ an­guish was borne of par­ent­hood and war. Bud knew the hor­rors of war hav­ing served with the Se­abees (Con­struc­tion Bat­tal­ion) on Guadal­canal dur­ing WWII. Dan re­called, “Dad came home with two things from Guadal­canal, his mem­o­ries and malaria. But thank­fully, he would talk about it. Dad dis­cussed what he saw, touched, smelled, and tasted on that God-for­saken is­land. He de­scribed the hu­mor­ous events as well as the heart­break­ing mo­ments. He held noth­ing back.”

Bud Turner re­solved his grief by com­pas­sion­ately de- voting his time and en­ergy to sev­eral pro­found causes. He ar­ranged scholarships at Tow­ers High School for 10 straight years to stu­dents ex­celling in sports, fine art and aca­demics. Bud met Gen­eral Ray Davis at Tow­ers dur­ing the first schol­ar­ship pre­sen­ta­tion. Gen­eral Davis vol­un­teered to stay on board the project for its en­tirety.

Bud phoned, met with and stayed as long as nec­es­sary with other Gold Star fa­thers in their time of sorrow. Bud Turner de­signed and do­nated a bronze statue he chris­tened “For a Pal” for the Guadal­canal Cam­paign Vet­er­ans So­ci­ety in Kala­ma­zoo, MI. “For a Pal” over­looks the run­ways out­side the Kala­ma­zoo Air Mu­seum to honor the men and women who served on Guadal­canal.

Se­abee Bud Turner met a lady Ma­rine on a blind date that changed his life for­ever. Her name was Dorothy, the fiery, fun-lov­ing daugh­ter of a Team­ster truck driver. As a young woman, Dorothy loved to go ‘juk­ing’ (dancing) with her friends, but com­plained, “Ev­ery time I went night-club­bing a trucker would see me and tell my dad. I couldn’t get away with any­thing!”

Dorothy danced with the likes of Team­ster boss Jimmy Hoffa, mas­tered the then-manly skills of plumb­ing, weld­ing, and riv­et­ing, and at­tempted to join the Marines be­fore WWII. That re­quired her dad’s per­mis­sion. Dorothy said, “I can’t tell you what he re­ally said, but it meant NO! I joined the Marines any­way at the out­break of WWII with­out my dad’s per­mis­sion.” Asked his re­sponse to her se­cret en­list­ment, Dorothy said, “You can’t print that ei­ther.” Sent to Camp Lejeune, Dorothy con­trib­uted her weld­ing, plumb­ing, and riv­et­ing skills to the war ef­fort. Of her tal­ents and obli­ga­tion, Dorothy said smil­ing, “Rosie the Riveter was a softy; the tough one was Dorothy the Welder.” ‘Tough’ may be too soft of a de­pic­tion. When a bar­racks sergeant hit Dorothy on the foot to rouse her from a deep sleep, Jimmy Hoffa’s ex-dancing part­ner came up swing­ing and knocked the sergeant out cold. A court-mar­tial was avoided af­ter the Marines read Dorothy’s en­list­ment records: ‘hates to be rudely awak­ened.’ Her son, Dan, said, “Yeah, I learned that the hard way, too.”

This no-non­sense yet com­pas­sion­ate Gold Star mother spent the next 60 years buy­ing and dis­tribut­ing gifts to needy chil­dren for the Marines ‘Toys for Tots’ pro­gram. If as­sis­tance was needed, Dorothy would visit a lo­cal Ma­rine re­cruit­ing sta­tion, walk in, then or­der the leath­er­necks, “You, you, and you; get out here now. I need your help.” The re­cruiters never ar­gued with Dorothy.

The lo­cal high school prin­ci­pal would call in re­in­force­ments – Dorothy – if dis­ci­plinary ac­tion was re­quired of her sons or their friends. Her son Dan: “Mom would march into the school and wear out a few butts. No com­plaints, no law­suits, just good old-fash­ioned dis­ci­pline.” If rowdy chil­dren dis­turbed cus­tomers in a gro­cery check­out

Dad came home with two things from Guadal­canal, his mem­o­ries and malaria. But thank­fully, he would talk about it. Dad dis­cussed what he saw, touched, smelled, and tasted on that God-for­saken is­land. He de­scribed the hu­mor­ous events as well as the heart­break­ing mo­ments. He held noth­ing back.

line, Dorothy would tell the moth­ers, “Lady, ei­ther you get that child un­der con­trol or I will.”

Shortly be­fore her pass­ing, Dorothy was hon­ored by the Ma­rine Corps Devil Dogs De­tach­ment from Du­luth and the Gen­eral Ray Davis Ma­rine Corps League De­tach­ment from Mon­roe. With over 100 res­i­dents and friends at­tend­ing the cer­e­mony at Morn­ing­side As­sisted Liv­ing, Dorothy was asked by a young lady, ‘So, ma’am, you were a Ma­rine?” Dorothy the Welder cut her eyes at the woman and said, “No, I am a Ma­rine.”

Each Me­mo­rial Day weekend, Dan Turner, fam­ily and friends, meet at the Ma­ri­etta Na­tional Ceme­tery for a wreath lay­ing cer­e­mony to honor the 3 Amer­i­can war­riors from the Turner clan. Like so many Amer­i­can fam­i­lies, mil­i­tary ser­vice and the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice touches the hearts of thou­sands, if not mil­lions, of fel­low coun­try­men knowl­edge­able of the pro­found cost of free­dom.

Bud Turner and his son Michael rest in peace at the Ma­ri­etta Na­tional Ceme­tery. Af­ter heated de­bates and red tape dis­cus­sions, Dorothy will be rein­terred with her hus­band and beloved son. Soon, the war­riors of this one Amer­i­can fam­ily will rest in peace to­gether for eter­nity.

From top: Dan Turner— one son’s ded­i­ca­tion; the last photo of Bud Turner in ac­tion; a cou­ple in love—Bud and Dorothy Turner.

Sub­mit­ted pho­tos /The Cov­ing­ton News

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.