|KFOX 14 TV kfoxtv.com
Soldier assigned to Fort Bliss dies in Afghanistan
TACOMA, Wash. — The father of a soldier assigned to Fort Bliss his son died in a training accident in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon did not provide details about the death Wednesday of 21-year-old Pfc. Neil I. Turner, saying only on Friday that he
died from a non-combat related incident.
He was assigned to a unit from Fort Bliss, Texas -- the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The News Tribune reports his parents, Leland Turner and Charlotte Cox-Turner, left Tacoma Thursday for Dover Air Force Base, Del., for the return of his body.
Leland Turner wrote on Facebook that his son died in a training accident.
About 50 friends held a candlelight vigil Thursday night in the neighborhood where the 2008 Lincoln High School graduate grew up.
|The News Tribune thenewstribune.com
Tacoma soldier made ‘people feel loved’
Pfc. Neil Turner’s first letter to his mother from Army basic training in the fall of 2010 reads like the diary of a young man thrilled to see the world on his own. The 21-year-old soldier’s life and career were cut short Jan. 11 when he was killed in an Army training accident at an American base in Afghanistan’s Logar Province.
ADAM ASHTON; STAFF WRITER
Published: 01/30/12 11:18 pm | Updated: 01/31/12 7:19 am
Pfc. Neil Turner’s first letter to his mother from Army basic training in the fall of 2010 reads like the diary of a young man thrilled to see the world on his own.
He marveled at Cascade Mountain peaks during his first-ever flight out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He “smashed” into a plate of airport Chinese food when he landed in Atlanta because he knew it would be the last meal he could choose for himself.
And when he saw a homesick recruit crying, Turner did what others avoided and made friends with the lonely soldier.
“Ha ha! You would be proud of your little boy,” he wrote to his mother, Charlotte Cox-Turner of Tacoma.
The 21-year-old soldier’s life and career were cut short Jan. 11 when he was killed in an Army training accident at an American base in Afghanistan’s Logar Province.
Friends and family Monday celebrated Turner’s life at Champions Center church in Tacoma and then laid him to rest at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent. They remembered him for the spirit he showed in befriending the homesick soldier at boot camp.
“He was such a lover of people,” said Champions Center pastor Samuel Deuth, a youth minister who knew Turner for years.
Turner “would go out of his way to make people feel loved,” Deuth said. “You didn’t see him much without a smile.”
Turner graduated from Lincoln High School in 2008 and was well-known as a music lover and affectionate big brother in his Eastside Tacoma neighborhood. Friends held a vigil for him the night of Jan. 12 when they learned of his death; his high school hosted a memorial, too.
He is survived by his parents, Leland and Charlotte, and by his three younger brothers, Maxwell, 19, Jordan, 15, and Tucker, 10.
Turner’s family displayed photos Monday showing him growing up in Tacoma mixed with recent images of him on patrol in the snowy, mountainous landscapes of Afghanistan.
He reveals a playful smile with a gap in his front teeth from some of his earliest childhood photos to the latest ones.
He was serving with 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas. A spokesman for Fort Bliss has said the Army is investigating the cause of Turner’s death and declined to release further information.
A friend from basic training joined the Turner family for this week’s services. Daniel Garcia of San Jose, Calif., said Turner helped other recruits bridge their differences and build friendships under the stress of new challenges and tough sergeants.
“It feels surreal,” said Garcia, 21. “We were with him not that long ago. Thanks to him, I met a lot of great people.
“It’s like I made a new brother,” Garcia said.
Charlotte Cox-Turner shared the letter she wrote back to her son after he told her about connecting with the lonely recruit during their first week away from home.
“Yes I am proud of you,” she wrote. “You changed a life; that is the mark of a true leader.”
She enumerated the ways that friendship would pay off for both of them, from the two looking out for each other to the homesick soldier feeling more comfortable making more friends.
“You are a leader. Don’t forget it, my boy, my son, my man.”
|From El Paso Times elpasotimes.com
Fort Bliss soldier dies in Afghanistan
By Alex Hinojosa \ El Paso Times
Posted: 01/14/2012 12:00:00 AM MST
A Fort Bliss soldier died Wednesday during a training exercise in Afghanistan.
Pfc. Neil I. Turner, a Minnesota native who considered Tacoma, Wash., home, was serving in the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. Turner was deployed to the Middle East in September for Operation Enduring Freedom, officials said.
Turner, 21, died in Logar Province after sustaining injuries in the accident, wrote his father, Leland Turner.
"My son Neil was killed during a training exercise yesterday (Wednesday) in Afghanistan," Leland Turner wrote on his Facebook profile. "When I get all the findings I will post them."
Fort Bliss officials would not elaborate on Neil Turner's death because the incident is under investigation.
"We honor the service of Pfc. Turner in Afghanistan and are keeping his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," said Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss.
Turner's family could not be reached for comment on Friday. But through Facebook, Neil Turner's mother and aunt shared how devastated they were.
"Would someone tell me this is just a bad dream,"
Turner's mother, Charlotte Cox-Turner, wrote on her profile Thursday. "Please God."
Other family members expressed similar emotions.
"Dear my dearest nephew Neil, I miss you so much," wrote his aunt Chelsea Cox. "I can't believe you're gone. Thanks for serving our country. You will forever be in my heart. I love you so much. RIP (Rest in Peace.)"
Neil Turner was a 2008 graduate of Lincoln High School in Tacoma. Friends described him as quiet but protective of his younger brothers.
"He would always let them do their own thing, but he was always the one to bring them home," Tami Scheidt said in a telephone interview. "The family is just devastated. He was just here for Christmas and was mending a strained relationship he had with his younger brother. He seemed different -- he wasn't your typical teenager anymore -- he was an adult. You could see the change in him."
Scheidt said Neil Turner was often seen playing with his younger brothers and her children. During the summers he would play the drums and guitar with his brothers and her children.
"I remember one time he helped us build a lemonade stand," said Megan Scheidt, 17. "It totally failed, but we still did it. He was also good at video games."
After graduating from high school, Neil Turner expressed interest in joining the military -- something that worried his mother.
"He was always talking about wanting to serve; it was a choice," Tami Scheidt said. "And it was a decision his mother was really concerned about because something like this might happen. But he was a really good person and wanted to be a good role model for his brothers."
Neil Turner's latest post on Facebook was two photos uploaded on Dec. 28. In one, he has a hat. In the other, he is in uniform standing tall with other soldiers in Afghanistan.
In a later post, he commented on a link posted by his brother, Maxwell Turner, about how distorting light -- masking an object by bending light -- could one day be used in covert operations.
"I'm actually using this on a day to day basis," Neil Turner wrote to his brother on Jan. 6. "Don't tell anyone though."
In his honor, friends and neighbors held a vigil outside the family's home in Washington on Thursday.
Funeral services are being arranged, but it is unknown whether he will be buried in Tacoma or Medford., Minn.