July 5, 2019 was a sweltering day in Institute, West Virginia. I was fortunate to find refuge from the heat in West Virginia State University’s Wilson Student Union building. While there—in front of the Wall of Stars—I conducted a face-to-face interview followed by a photo shoot with retired 2-star General Joseph Turner. Mr. Turner had graduated from this fine institution in 1961 and later served two tours in Vietnam.
As my camera was just getting warmed up at the start of the photo shoot, Mr. Turner and I overheard West Virginia State’s volleyball coach talking with a potential recruit and her mother. The coach briefly discussed the Wall of Stars as they strolled by us. The expression on Mr. Turner’s face told me that he wanted to share more of his story with them. It didn’t take much encouraging for him to go after them.
Upon returning with the party of three, Mr. Turner set out to educate them on the wall’s history. He explained that he was one of the generals commemorated; that it was his 2-star flag on display; and that he was instrumental in bringing it all to fruition. The coach, mother, and athlete all thanked him for his service. I contribute some of the smiles that I got out of Mr. Turner in the photo shoot from this interaction.
Before leaving the beautiful campus, Mr. Turner had to make one final stop in front of a bronze statue of Katherine Johnson, the star from the blockbuster movie Hidden Figures. There I took a family photo which included his lovely wife and two grandsons. Once completed, we wiped the sweat from our brows, said our pleasant goodbyes, and headed for our air-conditioned cars. His final destination would be California and mine the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.