While attending the Killeen-Harker Heights chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart meeting in May, Jeff Turner learned the group had money available to help area VA clinics with any needs they may have and asked members to look into the local clinic’s needs.

“When I came home, I thought first that our Brownwood clinic might need some furniture or another TV,” Turner said. “At least that’s what I expected the administrator to say when I asked him what the clinic needed.”

Troy Love, clinic administrator for the Brownwood VA Outpatient Clinic, informed Turner their most urgent need was new picnic tables to replace the broken wooden tables outside next to the clinic. Veterans used the area to congregate, hold meetings or wait for their appointments and the tables were also used by the clinic’s staff.

“The area was starting to become an eyesore,” Love said. “One of the tables had become warped from the uneven ground, had a broken brace and was falling apart.”

 With the help of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Turner was able to get funds to purchase two metal picnic tables similar to the ones the City of Brownwood uses in its parks. When the tables arrived on July 5, Turner helped Love and another friend assemble them.

“After a little work in leveling the ground, adding mulch and the new tables, the area is so much nicer,” Love said. “We’ve already had veterans comment on how pretty the area is now.”

According to Love, members of the VFW originally donated the wooden picnic tables to the VA, but the uneven ground and elements had worn down the tables.  Love said one table was in good condition and was moved under the pavilion area for veterans to enjoy. 

“We really appreciate all of the help the Purple Heart organization has given to us,” Love said. 

According to Turner, The Military Order of the Purple Heart is comprised of military veterans of good moral character who have been awarded the Purple Heart Medal and were not dishonorably discharged. Some of the major objectives of the group are to preserve and strengthen camaraderie and patriotism among its members, assist needy and distressed members and their dependents, and give needed hospital and service work through the VA. 

Turner was 22-years-old when he joined the Army after graduating from Howard Payne University in 1967.

“During that time frame, the United States had an active draft,” Turner said. “I was expecting to be called to active duty when I graduated from college.”

Turner was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation, completed his officer basic training at Fort Sam Houston and then trained with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood before going to Vietnam to serve in the 11th Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division.

“I was 23 when I found myself in the chaos that was Vietnam,” Turner said. “The mortars were constantly going off along with the shots — it was really fierce.”

It was during the 1969 Tet Offensive when Turner was wounded in action and was later awarded the Purple Heart before returning to the United States. Despite his injuries, Turner continued his service with the Army and retired as colonel after 22 years.