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94-year-old veteran shares stories with students
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World War II veteran Francis Turner watches a Flowery Branch Elementary fifth-graders get set to hear him read them a book Wednesday afternoon in the school’s library. Turner read the youngsters a book about a wounded veteran and his service dog.

World War II veteran Francis Turner loves storytelling.

The 94-year-old Flowery Branch man shares his wartime tales with thousands of children across the state, his caregiver Lyu Hardishek said.

“He’s a remarkable man,” Hardishek said.

Turner read to fifth-graders Wednesday afternoon at Flowery Branch Elementary School in his patched veteran’s cap, a blue collared shirt with a white star pattern and khaki slacks.

He read a story about a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder who requires a service dog called “Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog” by Luis Carlos Montalván.

He’s hoping he can continue to volunteer at the school’s library, with more one-on-one time with each student. Turner taught kindergarten through sixth grade and was a principal for some time, so kids are close to his heart.

Hardishek has lived with the disabled veteran for 17 years and said she knows he tries to help as many people as he can through his volunteer work.

Once he finished reading, kids asked him questions about his service.

Some of his answers: His favorite place he’s ever visited was Manila, the capital of the Philippines; he was born in 1922; he enlisted in his sophomore year of college; he was scared to go into the war — “I wanted to serve my country the best way I could” — he was only injured in a car accident in Germany; he’s from upstate New York; and more.

“We learned a lot from him,” fifth-grader Aubrey Allison said.

Every year, the school celebrates the national Read Across America program, which falls on the week of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The goal of the program is to encourage reading.

Karen Hickey, the school’s librarian, has been participating and bringing in speakers like Turner for the past decade.

“We want to reinforce reading,” she said.

Each grade got its own speaker and a half hour to spend in the library.

“I try to get people of somewhat local prominence,” Hickey said.

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller came to speak to kindergartners, and fourth-graders heard from Jim Hall with the Atlanta Gladiators hockey team on Wednesday. First-graders will hear from Capt. Rick Whaley of Oakwood Police on Thursday.

Retired library branch manager Barbara Perry dressed as Amelia Bedelia, a children’s book character, and spoke to second-graders, and third-graders heard from Gainesville environmental monitoring coordinator, also known as Conservation Crusader, Brian Wiley on Tuesday.

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