I am thankful for the veterans that I have had the privilege of knowing.
One veteran that I always think about on Veterans Day and Memorial Day is Ken Turner.
When I first met Ken I was a little afraid of him. At first glance, he was a washed up, grouchy, old man.
One could tell by his appearance that he didn't have a lot of money. He wore old clothes, always a dirty tan and brown plaid jacket, and drove around town in an old Ford Ranger.
Ken would come into the Round-Up Chevron many times a day for a cup of coffee. He would sit quietly in the last booth towards the northwest corner of the building, most of the time alone. Every now and then someone would recognize him and sit down to have a visit with him.
When I worked at the Chevron I became friends with Ken. We had good conversations on quiet Sunday mornings when there were no other customers around.
One Sunday Ken came in a little earlier than usual for his second cup of coffee. I told him that I noticed he was early and asked if everything was okay. He told me that he had been to church and that during sacrament meeting the Bishop had stood at the pulpit and said, "Brothers and Sisters many of you don't know this but we have a hero in our midst. Brother Turner fought in World War II and has the medals to prove it. I would like to invite him to come up and share his experiences with us." Ken then recalled how he stood up, but instead of walking toward the pulpit he walked right out the door. He then walked out to his truck, started the old truck up, and drove to the Chevron.
Ken told me that he didn't want to talk about the war and definitely didn't want to speak publicly about his war experiences. He did tell me that he served in the Army and about his box of metals that he kept on a shelf in his house. A few days later he brought his box of metals in. He told us what each one was and where he was when he earned them. Then he got to the last one. It was a metal for the highest military honor the British gave out at the time. Winston Churchill himself had presented Ken with this one.
We were truly in the midst of a hero.
The man that I had watched for months, sitting in the corner invisible to all of us around him, was a hero.
He had proudly served his country, bravely defended others' freedoms, and he didn't want or expect any recognition for what he had done. The way he saw it he had just done what he had to do in the situation, what any other person would have done placed in that situation.
I was there on Memorial Day 2000 when the Veteran's Memorial was dedicated at the Lehi City Cemetery
As we stood waiting for the ceremony to begin I saw a familiar red Ford Ranger pull in to the cemetery. Through the crowd I watched Ken Turner get out of his truck and find a place in the back of the crowd where no one would notice him. He would dodge the recognition himself, but he was still there to pay tribute to all the other members of the community who had risked their lives as he had done. At the end of the ceremony I looked back to find him and he was gone.
A few years ago I heard that Ken died. This spring I was happy to see him counted as the hero that he is on the Honor Wall at the Lehi City Cemetery.