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Army Spc. Estell L. Turner

Died July 2, 2008 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom


43, of Sioux Falls, S.D.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died July 2 at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., of wounds sustained June 28 in Malikheyl, Afghanistan, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device.

Sioux Falls soldier killed in Afghanistan

By Melanie Brandert

Argus Leader

On a day that America celebrates its independence, a Sioux Falls woman and her family will be thinking of the sacrifice her husband made to ensure that freedom.

Spc. Estell “Lee” Turner, 43, of Sioux Falls died Wednesday at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., after being injured when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device Saturday in Afghanistan.

A crew of three was hauling water and fuel to another site, and Turner was the gunner. When the explosion occurred, he was thrown off and suffered severe head injuries, his wife said. When he flew in from Germany, he was in a coma.

“It’s tough. We’ve lost our best friend,” said Leah Turner, 44. “He was the love of my life.”

Turner was a motor transport operator assigned to Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Support) based in Fort Campbell, Ky., according to the governor’s office.

Turner spent six years with the Army after high school and sought to re-enter at age 42 once the age limit was raised.

“It was something he wanted to do,” Leah Turner said.

Turner is the 29th person with South Dakota ties to die while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He comes from a military family in which his wife is an Army reservist and his younger brother, John, is in the Army stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.

President Bush awarded Turner’s Purple Heart to his wife and brother Thursday, said Mary Turner, Lee Turner’s sister-in-law. He has received other awards.

After Turner finished his military service in 1989, he was a mechanic in Fayetteville, N.C., Mary Turner said. He and brother John raced and fixed cars together, and Lee also played guitar.

“That’s how I remember him,” Mary Turner said. “He and his friends would get around and play guitar.”

The dirt track is where he and Leah met. They would have celebrated their fifth anniversary Aug. 5. Her daughter, Lyda, 22, took Turner’s last name, and they were quite close, her mother said.

“He was a hard worker. When it came to family, he was totally different,” Leah Turner said. “His family came first.”

The couple moved to Sioux Falls in 2006 for Leah Turner’s transfer. Lee worked as an installer for DirecTV.

When the Army raised the age limit to 42, Turner knew it was his last chance, his wife said.

He started a four-week refresher course in White Sands, N.M., in March 2007, then did eight weeks of advanced training in Missouri a month later. He was assigned to Fort Campbell in June 2007.

Lee Turner had looked forward to being deployed to Afghanistan — his first tour in the war on terror — in March. But he knew the potential dangers of his convoy missions.

“He never seemed to be worried about it,” Leah Turner said. “This is something he believed in. He thought it was right.”

Survivors include his wife, Leah; his daughter, Lyda, of Broadway, N.C.; his mother, Gloria Turner, and sister, Gloria “Gucci” Turner, both of Jackson, Ky.; and his brother, John, of Fayetteville, N.C.

Services are tentatively set for Friday in Kentucky.

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