His eyes filling with tears, though not one shed, WWII veteran Francis Turner reflected on the major moments of his 96 years.
“The driver made a turn I didn’t expect,” Turner said, describing the seconds before he slammed head-first into a windshield en route to an event in Germany during his military service.
Turner has lived a life plagued with challenges: Sustaining a severe head and knee injury in war, battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), facing near homelessness and raising three children with Down syndrome — all of whom have died, along with his wife.
“I’m the last of my clan,” Turner said.
But despite countless ups and downs, Turner has dedicated his life to helping others – which in turn, has helped him fend off bouts of anxiety and depression connected to his PTSD.
Up until a few years ago, the 96-year old tutored children in Georgia.
More recently, he devoted his time to raising money for Camp Corral, which provides a week of free outdoor activities to kids of injured, ill or fallen military service members. The non-profit was founded in 2011 by chain restaurant Golden Corral.
“My father, who was in the Marines in WWI, told me to always help other people if I could,” Turner recalled.
He said having a big heart runs in the family – a quality that nurse Lyuri Hardishek spotted, even in one of Turner’s most difficult periods.
Hardishek said “it became really apparent that he had no support system” and that his PTSD had essentially paralyzed him.
So, 20 years ago, Turner and Hardishek unofficially adopted each other as family.
Hardishek has watched Turner’s life transform over the past two decades. While PTSD will always impact him, Hardishek said chores, exercises and volunteer work have allowed Turner to regain control of his life.
“In the beginning, I never thought I’d take such good care of him, that we’d be doing so well at this point,” she chuckled.
Greeted by a standing ovation, Turner visited a Camp Corral site in Georgia for the first time this summer, armed with stories and smiles.
Frances Turner’s work with others has allowed him to “regain control of his life.”
In the past five years, he helped his Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter raise $26,000 for the Just Be Kids campaign. Those donations pour into Camp Corral, funding nearly 40 campers and even earning Turner an honorary cabin.
“With our partners at Golden Corral, the work disabled veterans like Mr. Turner are …