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Tacoma teens open up at Army grief camp about brother Pfc. Neil Turner’s death

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on June 11, 2012 at 10:38 am |
June 11, 2012 11:10 am
Images of Pfc. Neil Turner are displayed in front of his family's Tacoma home during a candlelight vigil, Jan. 12. Janet Jensen/Staff photographer

Today I’m thinking of Pfc. Neil Turner, the Lincoln High School graduate who died in an accident in Afghanistan six months ago.

His death stunned the Tacoma community who watched him grow up. His friends held a vigil outside his house when they heard the news. His high school honored him, too.

It’s still hard to figure out many details about the accident that caused Turner’s death. A soldier has been charged with an offense stemming from the incident in Afghanistan’s Logar Province, but the Army has not disclosed much more information. The News Tribune has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the Army’s internal investigation. A court case could keep that document restricted for a very long time.

Turner’s younger brothers recently attended an Army grief camp in Arlington, Va. They opened up about their struggles to understand his death to a CNN crew that filmed a lengthy feature about the camp that aired over the weekend. Here’s a link to the video story and a written piece by CNN’s Chelsea Carter. The Army even sent one of Turner’s squad leaders from Afghanistan to the camp to mentor one of his brothers.

Here’s Chelsea’s lead:

“Jordan Turner looks down at the scrap paper on the table in front of him.

“The instructions sound simple enough: On one side, write a negative word associated with grief; on the other, a positive word.

“Words have always come easily to the lanky 15-year-old, who hours earlier walked into a Washington-area hotel conference room full of unfamiliar faces and easily fell into conversation with teens and adults alike.

“‘Where are you from?’ asks one teen.

“Tacoma, Washington, he says.

“‘You been here before?’ another asks.

“No. This is my first time.

“Nobody asks Jordan the next question, the one that would explain why he’s in this room with more than two dozen teens about his age.

“Nobody has to ask. They all know. Not the details, necessarily. But they know the reason: Somebody in the military — a father, a mother, a brother or a sister — is dead.

“That is, after all, the only reason any of them are here at grief camp.

“For some, it’s the first time they’ll openly talk about what happened — the first time they’ll feel safe enough to admit they feel helpless, alone in their pain. For others, it will be a second, third, fourth … even a seventh time.

“Sitting in this group, Jordan stares at the blank piece of scrap paper: How do you sum up grief in one word?”

Read on to find out what Neil’s brothers Jordan, Max and Tucker took from their trip to Virginia.

Also today, drop by this Facebook support group to learn about Spc. Vincent Raila, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who was wounded in a June 1 attack in Afghanistan. He is serving with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

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