Tacoma residents are mourning a recent Lincoln High School graduate who died in a training accident in Afghanistan this week.
The Army has not yet released details on how Pvt. Neil Turner lost his life. His father on Facebook today wrote “My son, Neil, was killed during a training exercise yesterday in Afghanistan. When I get all the findings, I will post them.”
Leland Turner’s announcement rippled through a community of east Tacoma families who watched Neil grow up. He was the oldest of four brothers, and neighbors saw him keeping an eye out for his siblings.
“He gave his brothers space because they were boys, but he was the one who would corral them,” remembered Tami Scheidt, who lives next door to the Turner family.
“It’s been really hard for all of us,” she said. “He’s gone through some transitions in life, and he hit his late teens and he just grew up. He starts making good choices, and then this happens.”
Matt Zimmerman, 23, said Turner often talked about joining the Army while they attended Lincoln together. Turner enlisted a little more than a year ago and deployed early this fall.
“It seemed to me that he loved it. All the pictures I’ve seen of him deployed, he was smiling,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman remembered Turner as a popular student and a reliable friend.
“He was always that guy you could count on,” Zimmerman said.
Younger teens in the neighborhood looked up to Turner, too.
“Neil definitely left an imprint on my heart,” said Lincoln High School senior Ransom Hatch. “He’s one person who can’t be forgotten.”
Hatch said his older brother spent many hours fixing cars with Neil. He remembered the soldier constantly riding a bicycle around the neighborhood.
“He was always down to try a new adventure.”
Hatch said he saw Turner a few weeks ago when Turner came home to Tacoma for his leave. Turner appeared to be in good spirits.
“He was still the same old Neil,” Hatch said.
The Defense Department typically waits a day or two to release information about a service member’s death and military record. Information on Turner’s Facebook page shows that he was a private assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas.