WWII veteran raises money for military kids
Despite many ups and downs, 96-year-old veteran Francis Turner has planned his life to helping others.
WINDER, Ga. – His eyes fill with tears, but not of a barn, the world WAR ii veteran Francis Turner looked back at the most important moments of his 96 years.
“The driver made a turn, I had not expected,” Turner said, describing the seconds before he hit his head in a windshield, and the road to an event in Germany during his military service.
Turner has lived a life plagued with challenges: the support of a serious head and knee injuries in the war to fight post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with a view in the area of homelessness and the increase of the three children with Down’s syndrome — all of which have died, along with his wife.
“I am the last of my clan,” Turner said.
In an old photo, Francis Turner poses with his three sons, who each diagnosed with Down syndrome.
But despite many ups and downs, Turner has devoted his life to helping others – which in turn, helped him ward off the bouts of anxiety and depression associated with his PTSD.
Until a few years ago, the 96-year-old accompanied children in Georgia.
More recently, he devoted his time to raising money for Camp Corral, a week-long free outdoor activities for children of wounded, sick or dead military service members. The asbl was founded in 2011 by chain restaurant Golden Corral.
“My father, who was in the Navy in the first world war, always told me to help other people as I could,” Turner recalled.
He said with a big heart runs in the family – a quality that nursing Lyuri Hardishek spotted, even in one of Turner’s most difficult periods.
Hardishek said: “it was really clear that he has no support of the system,” and that his PTSD had essentially paralyzed him.
So, 20 years ago, Turner and Hardishek unofficially adopted each other as family.
Hardishek has examined Turner’s life change in the past two decades. While PTSD will always affect him, Hardishek said tasks, exercises, and volunteer work are allowed Turner to take control of his life.
A group of campers and counselors stay in Mr. Turner honorary cabin pose for a photo, thanking the world WAR ii veteran.
“In the beginning, I never thought that I would take good care of him, that we would do so well at this point,” she chuckled.
Greeted with a standing ovation, Turner visited a Camp Corral site in Georgia for the first time this summer, armed with stories and smiles.
In the past five years, he helped his Disabled American Veterans chapter raise $26,000 for the Just Kids campaign. These donations pour in for Camp Corral, funding almost 40 campers and even earning Turner an honorary cabin.
“With our partners at the Golden Corral, the work disabled veterans like Mr. Turner do gives children who share in the burden of our national defense a chance to just be kids and connect with others who share their experiences,” said Bryan Lett, a spokesman for the DAV.
During the ride on the back of a golf cart, Turner waved to the children coming out of their cabins, if their rest period ended.
Kids cried out, “Thank you for your service” and “Hi, Mr. Turner.”
Smile and wave. Smile and wave. Turner was a Camp Corral celebrity.
“It was a rare moment for these children to celebrate him,” camp coordinator Dorcas Tomasek said. “I can’t even express it. It was a really powerful moment.”
Tomasek has been involved in the camps for almost three decades. She recognized the power in bringing people together of similar experiences.
“[It helps them] realize that they are not alone,” Tomasek said. “That someone else by what they are going through, someone else has to move in the middle of the year or move from place to place to place.”
This year, these connections are crossed generations.
Simone Ziller, 15, said: it was an honor to hear Turner describe what military life was like in another era.
“For him to raise money and to try to put this camp together for us is truly incredible,” Simone said.
Camp Corral in total almost 1 in 4 children in military families have considered to commit suicide. Turner called them the forgotten victims of the war, that is the reason why the non-profit mission resonated so deeply with him.
But the children are not the only ones reaping the benefits of Turner’s hard work.
It is a full circle – Turner provide opportunities for campers as Simone and motorhomes enliven Turner.
Francis Turner reflects on memorable moments in his 96 years.
Hardishek said that since the visit to the campsite, Turner has referred to his experiences, often to attract you out of the darkness floated from PTSD and gives him a rejuvenated purpose, a broader smile and even more proud of the American.
“He made a comment to me about a year ago. He said: “I can remember when I was young, I wanted to live as long as possible to help as many people as I could,'” Hardishek said.
Emilie Ikeda is a multimedia reporter based in Atlanta.