There’s a house in Flowery Branch that has an old wooden pallet painted like an American flag leaned up against a tree outside in the yard. It’s just one of the ways Francis Turner, a World War II veteran shows his patriotism.
Another way he’s done that over the years is by sitting at a table at his local Golden Corral restaurant in Buford. While sitting there, he hands out small American flags to children and teaches them about flag etiquette while trying to raise money for Camp Corral, a summer camp for children of wounded, injured, ill and fallen military members.
But this year, because of his health, Turner wasn’t able to sit at that table like he has for the past 10 years. He had to pass up the extra opportunity to help his local Gainesville chapter of the Disabled American Veterans raise money for the camp.
“I don’t have the muscles I used to have,” Turner said with a laugh.
So, for his 96th birthday, that Golden Corral in Buford decided to pitch in and help raise the money for him. It plans to raise $9,600 — for the 96 years he’s been alive — for the “Just B Kids” campaign that has helped numerous children attend Camp Corral, which has many locations across the United States, at its Camp Twin Lakes location in Winder.
“A lot of kids have gone to camp over the years just because he would sit there and pass out flags and papers on flag etiquette,” said Lyuri Hardishek, a friend of Turner’s.
The camp is meant to be a place of healing for children of military families. While it takes place in a summer camp setting with swimming, fishing, arts and crafts, a ropes course and horseback riding among other things, it’s real purpose is to give the children an “opportunity to build emotional resilience.”
“From what I understand, it’s life changing,” Hardishek said.
Turner is passionate about helping children of veterans because he, too, was one. His father served in the Marines and Turner signed up for the Air Force as soon as he could, but high blood pressure kept him out. He later signed up for the Army, was accepted and eventually served under General George Patton.
Turner said he’s always liked to help people. That’s been part of his life since he watched his father in the military. He learned from his Methodist church and Boy Scouts what it means to help others, too.
“They’re kids and they are servicemen’s children,” Turner said. “That’s why I got involved.”
The camp is offered to children for free, so it relies on donations and fundraisers from people outside of the restaurant. In the past five years, Turner has helped raise more than $26,000 for the campaign. If the goal of $9,600 is met this year, an entire cabin of eight to 10 children will be able to attend the camp.
“It’s an opportunity to help,” Turner said. “It’s amazing. I’m very grateful to do this as long as I can.”
Hardishek said Turner is an incredible man with an impressive history. All three of his children and his wife died years ago, and even through all of that, he’s always been there to help others.
“I want to live as long as possible to help as many people as I can,” Hardishek recalled Turner saying.
You can donate to the cause here.