There is a ridiculously funny side to Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner that a national television audience got to see on HBO’s “Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Miami Dolphins.” Then there is the serious side, which his offensive linemen get to see regularly in practice, in meetings and during games.
Somewhere in the middle lies the real Turner, which he isn’t afraid to hide and which those that served with him in the United States Marine Corps respect to this day. It’s that persona Turner displays when talking about the military and the true meaning of Veterans Day.
“First of all I am honored and privileged to have served our country in the Marine Corps and my hat goes off to every single service member who’s ever served,” said Turner, who was an infantry officer and did tours in Europe, the Middle East and Japan from 1990-94 during the first Gulf War. “But I think more than anything right now, I think sometimes in your everyday life you get stuck in your everyday deal and you forget that we have men and women overseas fighting a war right now paying the ultimate sacrifice. Not only are they fighting in a war but it’s a pretty vicious war.”
Channeling that passion and his emotions was never a problem for Turner from the moment he took the oath to “support and defend the United States Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” One of the men who served with him and quickly became one of his best friends is Chris Platt, and he sensed immediately upon meeting Turner in boot camp that he had a special quality and aura about him.
The other Marines in Turner’s 42-man platoon looked up to him in the same fashion that football player’s look up to their quarterback in the huddle. They heeded his directions and always had faith that he would not fail them under any conditions.
“Jim really has a unique personality that lends itself perfectly to a leadership position wherever it’s at,” Platt said. “Whether it’s on a football field or in the military or any kind of organization, it really doesn’t make any difference. It’s pretty transferable wherever he goes. He really had a very unique way of relating to his Marines in a way that they responded to and respected. He was very good at doing that kind of stuff and I know they all respected the heck out of him and really enjoyed being in his unit.”
There was no surprise how quickly Turner moved up the ranks and that he would be given the responsibilities he was given as his military career progressed. Even when his skills in crisis were put to the test while in Israel during a live-ammunition training mission, the Boston native never blinked.
Platt, a salesman from Indianapolis, wasn’t physically present when the scary incident happened but he never doubted the story. Apparently, one of the Marines participating in the exercise was accidentally shot and the medic on site was a bit shaken and slow to react. Turner was able to calm him down and help him refocus on saving the wounded soldier.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” a modest Turner said. “The bottom line is it’s like anything. You get put in situations and you react and 99 out of 100 guys would have done the same thing. You get put in those situations and they train you for those situations and you just react when they come up and it’s like no big deal.
“Those men and women that are fighting in that war right now, they do things everyday that people over here, if they experienced it one time in their life it would change them and they’re going through that everyday right now. That’s hard and I think they need to be recognized and put on a pedestal for the price that they’re paying right now and they’re paying a huge price. I think what’s important is not only recognizing those people but taking care of those people when they come home.”
Turner’s father and uncle were in the Marines and he had some family members in the Army and the Navy so he had a good idea he was going to follow in the same path. There were family members that fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“I grew up with that history in my house everyday so it’s what I know,” Turner said. “It was normal for us to answer the call to duty when our nation called and until you change the law, if they say we’re going to war that’s what you do, you go to war. That’s it.”