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The statue "For a Pal" designed & donated by O.L. (Bud) Turner on the behalf of all men and women
that served at Guadalcanal, is located overlooking the runways at the Kalamazoo Air Museum in Michigan.
Photo provided by the Kalamazoo Air Zoo - Kalamazoo, Michigan.

For a Pal

It doesn’t seem that long ago that my father succumbed to illness. I watched a strong man with a voice that would make me jump 10 feet in the air falter with an unknown medical problem that caused him distress; finally diagnosed, a very serious surgery and a week later…as will happen with major surgeries on the occasion…a mercifully swift event from a blood clot. It happened too fast and without finishing up old and new business. But, that’s what I was there for.

One of the events of my life was my FIRST public speaking opportunity. This came about with all of 90 minutes notice that I would be addressing a room full of WWII veterans from the Pacific theatre…more specifically, Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans Society. The GCVS organization and my father, a veteran of the Seabees (Construction Battalion) on Guadalcanal were continually in touch as my father wanted to be sure his Pals from that island did not go without in recognition of their service to their country. He helped in a lot of ways, but most particularly, he volunteered to perform a service to his Pals as the GCVS prepared to open up the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans Society Museum as located at the great air history museum known as the Kalamazoo Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His service was…”I want to see a statue for all of us.” And he approved an artist design and patroned the bronze statue as his contribution to the cause.

The opening of the GCVS museum happened a little over a year after my father’s death. My mother and I were invited to the ceremonies and my wife, mother and I attended as requested. Upon arrival, it was brought to my attention that not only was I there to offer up a check, but to address the assembly of veterans, current military and politicals that filled this huge hall. Having never spoken in public, I was out of my league…and chose to write my notes to read. With the clock ticking and the "Number One Fear of All Mankind" hanging over my head, I couldn’t talk much less write. That’s when a guiding hand stepped in.

The place was PACKED. I was all of 35 and with the exception of my wife..the youngest person in the room. But, the youngest person to get up to speak that evening. The ceremonies with the Military were awesome and lent more décor to a situation in which I was assured to screw up in its entirety. But as the speeches began from others, I forgot my nerves and found myself absorbed into the tales that made up that time in the young prime of these heroes of the Pacific. Guadalcanal was a fulcrum to our success in the Pacific theatre. If these men had failed the ensuing battles would have taken many more lives and many more families at home would have gotten the dreaded telegrams of notification and condolence.

“And I’d like to welcome a young man from Georgia..the son of our departed comrade, Bud Turner, Electricians Mate 1st Class - SeaBees.” Geeez…the profound realization would have killed a lesser man…but, I was being welcomed to the podium, ready or not. Amazingly enough, the view from the podium over that group of men and women was calming and I began:

“I’m not a public speaker…so please excuse my nervousness, but I’ll have to read the speech that I was so kindly invited to give 90 minutes ago. {sounds of silence…I was going over worse than the lead balloon!!} I’m pleased to be here with you this evening with my wife and mother having flown in from Atlanta to attend these ceremonies. I’m in an odd situation as I’m sure you’d consider me much too young to know about the real reasons that I’m here representing the wishes of my father…Bud Turner.”

“My dad brought things back from Guadalcanal. Photos and letters. Souvenirs of his time in service. Mementos of his time with his pals on Guadalcanal. He brought back Malaria that never went away. He brought back memories that remained fresh for years. I didn’t have to go to Guadalcanal, my dad told me all I wanted to know about his time there. I’ve listened first hand to what he saw, touched, smelled and tasted and his reaction to each event. As for most of you, Guadalcanal was not only a turning point in the battle of the Pacific…but a turning point in his life.”

"My father told me of Guadalcanal. He told me of the humor that you all had to have to endure. He told me of the hardships that each of you faced. He told me of the good times, the bad times and the truly desperate times. I was privileged to hear about how he felt during those good times.....and how burdened he was with the bad times and how affected he was from the desperate times. I was privileged to hear all these tales first hand and if my father were here today, he'd allow that he was honored to be on that island with the greatest bunch of guys that he ever knew.”

“My father imparted many things to me over the years and if I could pass along only one continuing theme to all these tales...it would be how proud he is to have served his Country during that time and how proud he is of each of you.”

“Having said this, it is my sincerest honor that I tender full payment for the bronze statue that Bud Turner collaborated with the Board of Director of the GCVS in recognition of those honorable pals that fell then and fall now. It’s the least I could do on his behalf and one of the proudest moments in my life. Thank you for honoring me with this opportunity to address this gathering on the behalf of my father and family.”

I looked up from my paper because it was quiet. Toooo quiet. But Guadalcanal vets were crying…crying. Seeing this, a full color uniformed MARINE Colonel was on his feet in a standing ovation so that others would stand up and break the moment…which it did. The unveiling of the statue the next day was equally as heartbreaking. My mother got the hot seat this time! She was invited to the statue to pull the cord that unveiled the artwork and as one of the more thoughtful and poignant moments that I can recall in my life, the Air Museum had an old F4F3-Wildcat similar to the same aircraft that based out of Henderson Field during those battle…perform a flyover. This 1400 horsepower aircraft had an unmistakable sound to its engine. The sound of that Pratt & Whitney brought back memories that I couldn’t begin to imagine to the GCVS troops that were at the service. There was no holding back the emotions that came about from something as simple..but as reassuring to these men from those years as the sound of horsepower overhead backed up with .50 caliber machine guns. It was the sound that lulled men like my father to sleep at night after a long, hot, hard day in a strange “paradise” on the other side of the world from their families.

My father recognized the simpler things in life and what they mean. The statue “For a Pal” speaks volumes in it’s simplicity as these men fall in ever increasing numbers each day….but they leave knowing that they were given their due for their time spent in the days of their youth that saved untold hundreds of thousands further misery. The tears from this commemoration and speech were in part attributable to the moment. Finally getting recognized for their expenditure of lives and innocence…the saddest part is that they had to fund their own museum, organization and statue to be able to commemorate their time in history.

They slapped each other on the back one more time….”for a pal!!” and welcomed my mother, wife and I into the fold of the GVCS. And then the ceremonies were over. GVCS heroes left to go home back in 1988…and very few remain with us today. They did have their moment “in the sun” of Guadalcanal…and they did have their moment of reflection in Kalamazoo. And despite my bad jokes and lack of public speaking abilities…they made me one of the youngest life members of the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans Society. I may very well be the last member of the GCVS one day…a peculiar honor that I hold on the behalf of my foresighted father who knew that someone would be there to pick up the banner.

And just as can be found at the start of this tale…”that’s what I was there for.”
What are pals for?

Written by:
Dan Turner
August 2001

Song: Tenderly
(Bud Turner's favorite song)
Arranged and performed by Dan Turner

Tribute to Michael Barry Turner

Created 8/26/2001