More than a Name on the Wall
by Linda Stevenson
Twenty years ago, on November 13, 1982, the National Vietnam Veteran's Memorial was dedicated. The structure, known simply as "The Wall" has 58,229 names carved into its black granite face. One name for each US serviceman (or woman) lost during the 11 year conflict. The names of Williamson boys John Edward Crowley, Frederick Carl Weber, and Richard Lee Malone and that of Richard M. Luckenbach Jr. from Sodus, can be found there. The fifth local name on the Wall is Frank Krec, known as Frank Turner to everyone who knew him in Williamson. This is his story.
"Frank was just the nicest, sweetest guy always smiling!" That was the kind of remark made by everyone, without exception, when asked what they remembered about Frank Krec Turner.
"He was so happy to be here," his sister, Vivian (Turner) Eaton explained. "He just loved America. He thought it was a wonderful, wonderful place. The freedom. That was a big part of it."
Frank was born in Gorizia, Italy, near the Yugoslav border, on December 17, 1943. World War II was raging in Europe and when Frank's father was killed in the fighting, his mother Lena found work at an Italian hospital. It was there that she met and fell in love with a young American GI from Williamson named Joe Turner. The couple married in 1946 and by 1947 were preparing to leave for the United States. It proved impossible to bring Frank, who went back to live with his grandmother in Yugoslavia. The Turner's returned to the US with the intention of sending for him soon. Unfortunately, Marshall Tito was now ruling Yugoslavia in dictator fashion, modeling his new government on the Soviet Union, and "soon" turned into eleven years. Quotas were very restrictive, and red tape abounded, especially for those attempting to emigrate from an "Iron Curtain" country. In the end, the assistance of U.S. Senator Kenneth Keating cut through the red tape. Frank finally arrived in Williamson from Yugoslavia in December, 1958, just in time to spend Christmas with his parents, Joe and Lena, and four siblings he'd never before seen, Vivian, Joe, Linda and Barb. He soon grew to love his new country, and to appreciate the freedom that many of those born here often take for granted.
One thing Frank did not learn to love was school! For Frank, going to school didn't just mean learning new things it meant learning new things in a totally new language. It was an uphill battle all the way and by 1960 Frank called it quits. He spent the next few years working with his dad Joe at Turner's Gulf station in Williamson.
Then came Vietnam, and America's call to arms in the fight against Communism. America needed fighters, and this was Frank's kind of battle! He tried to enlist in the Marines, but ran into a stumbling block the entrance exam, given only in English. "The language was still a problem," sister Vivian remarked. "It took him five tries to pass that test. He wouldn't have been drafted because he wasn't yet a U.S. citizen, but I think he felt that America had given him so muchï¿ 1/2 Fighting for America and freedom was his way of showing how much he loved this country."
"He was determined to become a Marine," added brother Joe Turner, Jr. "That was his dream. He was so happy when he finally made it."
Frank's dream was realized in September of 1966, and he spent the first part of his Marine life serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In November of 1967, his orders came for Vietnam, and he arrived there on December 6th. Vietnam was America's first televised war, and Lena vividly remembers once seeing her son on TV.
In March of 1968, brother Joe Jr., also a Marine, was home on leave, waiting to go to Vietnam himself. "During that war, only one brother at a time was allowed to serve in combat," Joe explained, "so my original orders had me going to Camp Lejeune, NC. I signed a waiver to have them changed to Vietnam because my MOS (job description) was 'motor transport' while Frank's was basic infantry. If I went, I figured they would send Frank back, out of the combat zone. I probably would have been stationed at one of the bases there."
Tragically, just six days before Joe's departure date, the family received the news that Frank had died in combat in Mai Xa Thi, Quang Tri Province.
If the Marines had known what they'd be getting while Frank was still desperately trying to enlist, perhaps they would have waived that entrance exam. One of Frank's officers recently corresponded with former Marine E.J. Lergner, a close friend of the Turners. Richard Cunningham wrote: 'I have many very fond memories of Frank, as he was one of my very, very best Marines and always volunteered for the most challenging assignments. I am so happy to hear that Frank received the Silver Star. He deserved it - he deserved more than one!'
For in 1969, Frank's family was presented with his medal, awarded to Frank posthumously for his actions on the day he fell in battle. The Silver Star citation reads, in part:
"On 1 March, 1968, [his unit] came under intense machine gun fire from well fortified hostile positions. Disregarding his own safety, he unhesitatingly crawled forward across twenty five meters of fire swept terrain and commenced throwing hand grenades at an enemy emplacement, enabling the remainder of his unit to move forward. Unable to silence the weapon with hand grenades, he fearlessly stood up and exposed himself to the intense hostile fire while delivering accurate rifle fire at the enemy position. Despite the heavy volume of hostile fire, he resolutely continued his heroic actions until he was mortally wounded. By his courage, bold initiative and selfless devotion to duty, he was an inspiration to all who observed him and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corp. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country."
Frank would have been proud of the Star, but his family believes that the final award he received would have meant even more. Two and a half years after his death, on August 28, 1970, the boy from Yugoslavia who bravely fought and died for his adopted country was at last adopted by that country. By an Act of Congress, Marine Lance Cpl. Frank Krec Turner received his citizenship and was " ... held and considered to have been a citizen of the United States at the time of his death."
© Williamson (NY) Sun-Record
Used with their kind permission