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Soldier Receives Silver Star
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By Tam Cummings / Fort Hood Sentinel
FORT HOOD, Texas, June 2, 2004 — In talking with him, you are struck by his humility and the look of intensity and age in his blue eyes. But Pfc. Kyle Turner, 3rd Battalion 16th Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Division is only 20 years old.
When asked about the Silver Star he received May 13, he shakes his head slowly and looks down. “I’m nervous, real nervous over that,” he said. “I don’t believe I deserved it. I was thrown into a really bad situation. I didn’t do anything above any other guy.”
The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force. It is one of the highest awards earned in the military.
“I was right out of basic. Everything was new to me,” Turner said. The day had been “hot, always hot,” he added. As night fell, “there were no stars, no moon, it was really dark. We were doing a check point, driving away from camp and stopping at a designated area. We park the vehicles in a zigzag line, throw up wire and start checking vehicles on a highway.”
Turner stops speaking, tilts his head for a moment and then continues. “Not what we would call a highway, just a road, enough for cars to go both ways. As soon as we stopped, we went out on a patrol with six others to scout.” Then the young soldier grabbed a few hours of sleep before his next patrol started.
As Turner prepared to leave for patrol, he and another soldier kidded with each other about who would get to go with Sgt. Atanasio Haro-Marin Jr. “Sgt. Haro split us up and said ‘one of you can go with me for two hours and then we’ll switch.’” So Turner and Haro left on patrol. “We walked past the wire and past the perimeter facing south and went out.”
After patrolling out a distance, the two soldiers stopped. “We sat down on the road and talked about home,” said Turner. “We were both from California and we talked about what we were going to do when we got back. And then all hell broke loose.”
Turner stops talking and draws a breath. His voice is more monotone, flat and distant while he describes what happened in the dark night around midnight June 2, 2003. “I saw the first RPG (rocket propelled grenade) tracer and we both started yelling. Sgt. Haro pushed me out of the way and I rolled to his right. Small arms fire broke out and we returned fire. A couple more RPGs hit. One hit directly behind us, about 10 yards, so I ducked and Sgt. Haro got up and fired. They zeroed in on us.
“The bullets got closer, ricocheting off the cement. We were caught on the road; there was no time to get into the ditch.
A bullet ricocheted and hit him (Haro) in the head. I called out for a medic and crawled over to him. (The firefight) seemed to last forever, but I’d say it was probably 10 or 15 minutes,” Turner said. “When he hit the ground, his Kevlar (vest) slipped and I reached over and fixed it.”
Other members of Turner’s squad returned fire from behind the two trapped soldiers. “There was finally a cease fire and the other soldiers came out and got us. They grabbed his shoulders, I grabbed his feet. More shots broke out and shrapnel from an RPG, when it hit behind us, sprayed around.”
It wasn’t until the rescue that Turner realized he had been wounded when the attack started. “I didn’t know I was hit,” he said. Turner had shrapnel in his upper right arm from an RPG. Haro died from his injuries.
Turner sighs again and stops talking. He freely admits the attack changed his life. Not the medal or the recognition, but his plans for his future as a soldier, his relationship with his father, and his determination to attend the college he dreamed about as a boy.
Turner’s father, a Vietnam veteran, was in the audience last week when Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno pinned the Silver Star on his chest. His mother had visited Fort Hood when Turner returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom March 30.
“Me and my dad talked and talked and our relationship deepened. It’s like Gen. Odierno said, ‘we’re a band of brothers.’ He’ll always be my father, but instead of just looking up to him, we now see eye-to-eye. I’ve been there, he’s been there. It’s about honor and discipline. My friends back home don’t have a lot of discipline. Here you have brotherhood. I’ve bled with these guys and they’ve bled with me.
“When I joined up, I was a little punk, a guy right out of high school and thought I knew everything. Now I know how much I have to learn. Joining up, it was the right thing to do. It’s how I was raised. This country gives you so much and you have to give something back,” Turner said.
It was his family’s influence that led Turner to try for what will be his next assignment. “I always thought about West Point. I grew up listening to old country western music and watching old John Wayne movies and every spring, Dad put on The Long Gray Line and we would all watch it. I told him I was going to go there.” The 1955 movie stars Tyrone Powers as West Point athletic director Marty Maher and the story revolves around the traditions of the famed military academy.
Turner has been chosen to attend the United States Military Academy Preparatory School at Fort Monmouth, N.J., his commanding officer, Capt. Ryan McCormack said. “He’s been accepted to prep school at West Point, the Army’s best kept secret. About 150 soldiers are chosen to attend the school to prepare to enter West Point. He’s a smart guy, I think he’s got a bright future,” McCormack, himself a West Point graduate said. “He has the attributes essential to becoming a cadet, he has the drive, the attitude. He’s going to do a great job.”
“Prep school is a place for soldiers to get into an educational mind frame and raise their test scores,” Turner explained. “As soon as I got to my unit (after basic training), I found out there was an opportunity to go (to West Point).” Turner began to study. He took his college entrance exams while he was in Iraq.
“It was crazy, trying to find time to study in between raids and guard duty and other details you had to tackle. A few times I was studying and something would happen and I would have to throw my books down and grab my gear and go.”
Turner said he is excited about his future but his obligations remain with his fellow soldiers currently on duty in the Middle East. “It’s going to be awesome, but the military comes first. If I get recalled, I would come.”