Wyoming nurse saw war, far-flung places in career

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RAWLINS, Wyo. (AP) — Lillian Turner, a 96-year-old recent arrival at Rawlins Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation from Primrose Retirement Community in Casper, is not a stranger to Carbon County.

Turner was a nurse at the Hanna Clinic and Wagon Circle Clinic in Rawlins in the mid-1970s. After receiving her physician assistant license, she first practiced at Wagon Circle and later ran the Hanna Clinic until her retirement in 2006.

But before Turner's time in Carbon County, she had an illustrious military and nursing career that spanned two wars, brought her to numerous countries and won her many accolades.

Turner grew up on a ranch in Colorado and graduated from the Columbia Presbyterian School of Nursing in New York in 1944. Turner enlisted in the U.S. Army in the spring of 1945.

"It was a family thing," she said. "My brother, sister and relatives were all in the military. It seemed like the thing for me to do at that time."

Paul Paulson, Hanna treasurer/clerk and Turner's niece, said Turner signed up for both the Army and Navy but the Army responded first.

After basic training, Turner shipped out that May to Japan. En route, the war ended and she went to the Philippines instead, which was then under U.S. control.

"I met a lot of good Philippine friends," she said. "They were friends to the Americans."

Turner spent almost a year at the General Hospital at Fort McKinley and the Air Vac hospital at Nielson field before heading home in March 1946.

Turner had a brother who was in the Philippines around the same time.

"I was concerned about him because he was engaged in heavy fighting," she said. "Fortunately we all came home."

Turner was honorably discharged in August 1946 and eventually moved to Alaska where she was campus nurse and Dean of Women at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

"My sister and brother moved to Alaska and I worked while they went to school."

After a few years working at a hospital in Seattle, Turner shipped out again. Between 1954 and 1960, she completed three tours of duty for the Department of Interior working in American Samoa as adviser to the chief nurse.

Turner then spent about a year as a shift supervisor for Standard Oil at a hospital in Aruba before she decided to return to the battlefield — this time, the Vietnam War.

Between 1964 and 1969, Turner completed two tours of duty, reaching the rank of lieutenant commander.

Turner then spent two years working in the Truk Islands before returning to Vietnam where she worked until the war ended in 1975. She earned a Medal of Commendation from the Ministry of Health in South Vietnam and a medal from the United States Public Health Service for her time in Vietnam.

She traveled extensively during her time in Asia, and after all was said and done, she moved to Hanna to live with her sister and be closer to family in Colorado.

During her time as a physician's assistant, she was named Wyoming's Physician Assistant of the Year in 1981 and National Physician Assistant and Humanitarian of the Year in 1982.

In 2011, at age 93, Turner was the only female veteran to board the last Honor Flight-Wyoming, which brought World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial constructed in their honor.

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Information from: Rawlins (Wyo.) Daily Times, http://www.rawlinstimes.com

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