Six years of service in the United States Army have rewarded Christian A. Turner in many ways — with invaluable training, lasting friendships, an education and a career direction where she hopes to excel and make a difference.
On Friday, Dec. 14, Turner will receive a B.A. in Organizational Communication, cum laude at the 7 p.m. commencement ceremony, at which she has been chosen to speak on behalf of the Fall 2012 Class as the student responder. She is one of three student-veterans who have been awarded the honor for fall commencement ceremonies.
She will savor the moment all the more because Turner, along with family and friends, knows how hard she worked to make it happen.
The 2004 graduate of McKinley High School in Canton came to UA determined to earn a college degree, but not at all certain which major was right for her. During her early semesters, Turner's interests shifted from fashion merchandising and e-marketing to athletic training.
When her funds were gone, she enlisted in the U.S. Army, where the education benefits she earned would pay her tuition. Within 30 days, she was on her way to nine weeks of basic training at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina. With her choice to become a combat medic, Turner went on to fulfill 48 weeks of training at bases around the U.S. before she was ready to return home and resume her college career.
Her choice of military service follows an example set by her own parents. Turner was born in Okinawa, Japan, where both were serving in the U.S. Navy.
Turner was in the 11th week of her third semester back at UA when she was called up for deployment to Iraq, with five days' notice. "You see it coming, because you've had the training, but you just never know for sure until the orders come down," she says.
During her 11 months in Iraq, Sgt. Turner ran the Immunizations Clinic at Cropper Hospital, providing immunizations to service members, Department of Defense personnel and detainees.
"The experience taught me a lot about myself," notes Turner. "Being uprooted from your life and placed in a situation where you never know from day to day what will happen can be difficult. I met a lot of people from different backgrounds with very different world views, but at the end of the day, for all of us, it was about the mission."
When she was assigned to assist her company's public affairs officer — she found her career direction.
Turner returned to UA in fall 2011, ready to pursue a communication degree while finding ways to serve her fellow veterans. She became president of the Military Veterans Association on campus and worked at UA's Military Services Center to provide incoming and current student-veterans with help understanding their benefits. She also joined Clearview HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere). The organization was founded at Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, as a cost-free golf program exclusively for women veterans.
Now, as Turner's job search begins, she is already focused on another goal. She is studying to take the Law School Admission Test in February so that she can begin work on a J.D./MBA degree at UA in the fall.
"I would not trade my military experience and what I gained from it for anything," says Turner. "The tuition assistance from the post-9/11 G.I. Bill made college possible for me.
"I want to earn a degree where the legal and business training, combined with my public relations experience, will enable me to offer a whole package of services that small businesses need, but cannot always afford, especially veteran-owned small businesses."