Salisbury Post Office to be named for Wardell Turner

If Wardell Turner knew the Salisbury Post Office was going to be named for him, the city native and high school football star would likely deflect the attention and say, in his modest way, he was just doing his job.

Sgt. Maj. Wardell Turner of Nanticoke was killed in Afghanistan in 2014. 

“He was very humble,” his widow, Katherine Turner, who now lives in Texas, said during a telephone conversation this week.

“He thought every citizen should serve their country, even if it was just for one term and he set an example for our children,” she said about her husband, a career U.S. Army officer who was killed in Afghanistan four years ago.

His vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device, known as an IED, killing the 48-year-old James M. Bennett High School graduate on Nov. 24, 2014, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

He planned to retire the following year.

The couple had five children, now ranging in age from 13 to 34, including son Devin, who also served in Afghanistan.

After his father’s death, he was offered a reprieve from returning, but the young man told his older sister, Shayla, “Dad always told me never to leave any mission unfinished.”

“My daughter looked at me and she said, ‘Mom, we have to let him go,’” Turner recalled.

She and her husband met at a dance just before her 15th birthday. He grew up in Nanticoke. She was born in Head of Creek. They were married in 1991 and had a strong marriage with love and enjoyable time spent with their family.

When officials arrived at Transitional Living Services of Northern New York, where she worked, and broke the news of his death, “it was one of my roughest days,” she said.

Of course, it was as difficult for their children, Shayla, Devin, Quinton, Wardell II, known as Chase, and Xavier, who was only 9.

“Xavier knew his father very well. His father taught him how to cook eggs. I wasn’t the cook in the family. People will come over and he’ll say, ‘Do you want me to make you an egg and cheese taco? My dad taught me.’ He taught Xavier how to cook just like his father taught him,” Mrs. Turner said.

On her Facebook page, there’s a picture of the smiling couple.

“This was his last birthday trip to Vegas … yes, he was and is still is a big deal! He always wanted to know how much it cost and I would tell him, ‘You’re worth it,’” she  wrote.

Congressman Andy Harris’ office issued a news release announcing that, on Sept. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4913 to rename a post office in honor of Sgt. Maj. Wardell B. Turner.

It hasn’t yet been determined when, but Mrs. Turner said there will be a ribbon cutting and ceremony in her husband’s honor and she will certainly travel to Salisbury to attend.

In the news release, Harris praised Turner for his “remarkable service” in the U.S. Army.

“The memory of his life is a true example of courage, strength, and perseverance,” he stated.

Turner enlisted in 1993, served in Germany, South Korea, Bosnia and Iraq and earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals.

In high school, he played football for the Bennett High School Clippers, and is remembered as being instrumental to the Clippers’ successes in 1982 and 1983, both undefeated state championship seasons.

He was voted most Most Valuable Player by his teammates after the 1983 season for his outstanding contributions as fullback and middle linebacker and went on to play football at Towson University, where he received a scholarship. He graduated in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in management.

Former Bennett quarterback Cam Carte, now an eighth-grade teacher and Methodist preacher in central Virginia, has organized a memorial service for Turner.

It will be at 9 a.m. on Oct. 28 at Wicomico Presbyterian Church, where his former teammate will be remembered in prayer, proclamation and song. In addition, at the state championship ring ceremony following the memorial service, James M. Bennett High School will officially retire Turner’s No. 40 football jersey.

“Wardell’s athleticism eventually led him to an athletic scholarship for Towson University. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in criminal justice from Central Missouri State University,” Harris stated.

Turner is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The day before he died, during a phone conversation, Mrs. Turner told her mother, “Wardell has been a really good husband.”

“I remember saying, ‘God forbid, if anything would ever happen to him I would never remarry.’ And I haven’t,” she said.

“He was really a good man. The day I got the news that he died, I said, ‘Your legacy will never die.’

“God’s plan is perfect, but my only regret is he didn’t come back alive. I never let anger overtake me, though.

“When you’re dealing with that much grief, you don’t have any time to be angry.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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