Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1919, William Turner knew as a little boy that he would one day travel the world.
On March 24, 1939, Turner raised his hand to become a U.S. Marine and would then spend the next six years realizing this premonition. With service including six months of fighting at the Battle of Guadalcanal from 1942 to 1943, Turner was one of 16 million members of the greatest generation who donned a uniform during World War II. Some 80 years later, less than two percent of these men and women are still alive.
An even smaller number are centenarians like Turner, who celebrated his 102nd birthday on October 26. He was surrounded by family members, friends, North Texas VA staff and officials from Garland, Texas. The celebration took place at his Garland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center residence.
“There’s not many World War II Veterans still with us in North Texas, so we’re happy to have the opportunity to share this special day with Mr. Turner,” said Bobbie Scoggins, Center for Development and Civic Engagement chief.
Earned his GED at 72
Joined in person at the event by his daughter and virtually by other family members, Turner regaled attendees with stories from his life, including getting his GED diploma at 72 and meeting President George H.W. Bush at Dallas Love Field in 1989.
Turner was especially happy to virtually see his two grandsons, who are both currently serving in the U.S. Air Force. “I’m so proud of them both for serving our country,” he said.
Though 102, William Turner is still very much an active nursing home resident and is known for his distinctive red Marine Corps hat and friendly demeanor.
“Very young at heart.”
“Mr. Turner is very young at heart,” said Tammy Hernandez, Nursing and Rehabilitation staff member. “Each day he comes around the building saying hello to the staff and other residents.”
Turner was presented an American flag as a symbol of gratitude for his military service. Garland Mayor Scott LeMay read an official proclamation honoring Turner for his service and sacrifice to the nation.
Turner had one special wish for his 102nd birthday – a specific cold beverage. “A surprising request but this is a very special day for Mr. Turner and for us, so we made good on his request,” said Hernandez.