“All American Citizens Have A Duty To Our Country”

Murkowski Spotlights Decorated Kenai Peninsula Vet, College CEO

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski today is releasing her 22nd Veteran Spotlight interview, focusing on the military service of Soldotna resident Gary Turner, a highly decorated retired U.S. Air Force Captain.  During his fifteen year career, Turner earned a number of honors including the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and Outstanding Airman of the Year.  Now Director and CEO of University of Alaska Kenai Peninsula College, Turner is continuing his life of service by helping to educate the next generation of Alaskans and veterans.

During his Veteran Spotlight interview, Turner recalls how as a young person, service to his country was one of the furthest things from his mind. That is, until his brother in-law lost limbs in Vietnam just weeks before he was set to come home.


Gary Turner, U.S. Air Force veteran

(Click on image for excerpt of Gary talking about the duty to serve, CLICK HERE for the extended interview) 

“He really opened my eyes to what I feel all American citizens owe to their country.  This man who had lost so much still loved his country.  He was still a patriot,” said Gary Turner.  “Here I am trying to figure out what to do with my life and I thought well, I owe my country something.  I had a debt that I needed to pay, so I enlisted in the Air Force and started my career.”

Over the next fifteen years, Turner served all over the world, including as director of public affairs for Eielson Air Force base in Fairbanks.  He was named as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 1982, the only public affairs specialist to ever receive the honor.  Upon retirement, Turner used his expertise to work at NASA before returning to Alaska with his family and settling on the Kenai Peninsula.

“Gary Turner is truly the best of the best of the Air Force,” said Senator Murkowski.  “Like so many of our service men and women, he fell in love with Alaska while he was stationed here and now calls our beautiful state his home. I commend him for all his work within the community and at the Kenai Peninsula College, where his leadership is ensuring our veterans get the support  and educational tools they need as the enter a new chapter in their lives.  We owe it to veterans like Gary to honor them through sharing their stories, and we owe it to the rest of us to learn from the high levels of patriotism, commitment and service they demonstrate for us.”

The “Veteran Spotlight” project is Senator Murkowski’s monthly focus on an Alaska veteran of American conflicts worldwide to honor and draw well-deserved attention to Alaska’s men and women who served.  Today’s installment is the twenty-second in the series that began on Memorial Day weekend of 2012.  Every month, Sen. Murkowski posts a biography and an interview with an Alaskan who served our country abroad in conjunction with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project – which recognized Murkowski’s series in 2013 as a model of best practices. You can watch them all by clicking here.

Senator Murkowski invites all Alaskans to nominate a veteran from the 49th state to be featured in the Veteran Spotlight project.  If you have a family member or friend in the community you think has a story to share, email Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.