Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023 |
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• Remembering Turk
There is an error in the headline of the letter honoring our friend “Turk” on the front page of the December 29th issue of The Garden Island. It really should have read just “Kapa‘a’s Hero”, because the ode to his heroism was definitely not “unsung”! Not here in Kapa‘a, anyway. For as long as I can remember, every time we would see Turk walking in Kapa‘a town, my husband would re-tell the story about Turk’s heroism. We all heard that story over and over. Our children and grandchildren knew that story by heart, and always waved “Hi Turk” out of our car window. “Unsung” hero? I don’t think so.
Turk was my husband Buddy’s personal hero. Buddy and Turk played football together at Kapa‘a High School in 1948 and 1949, after which they were both inducted into the army. Turk was sent to the Korean front, and Buddy was stationed at Tripler Army Hospital on O‘ahu. As the injured came home to Tripler Hospital, they raved about Turk’s heroism on the battlefield. They told of how, as they were attacking an enemy pillbox (machine gun nest), this man they called Turk was shot in the stomach. It is said that his intestines were sticking out of the massive wound, but that did not stop him…he literally pushed his “guts” back into his stomach, and continued on his trek to overtake the pillbox. Ultimately, Turk was shot in the head. Such strength, such bravery, such courage, such determination, such loyalty were the adjectives used by his injured fellow soldiers when describing Turk’s escapade on the battlefield. This story has been told over and over again in spite of the fact that it is hearsay, and probably not a part of the legal record. We never knew that his name was James Takao Fukushima…we just knew him as everyone’s friend, Turk. I was very impressed when a picture of this well known Kapa‘a figure was hung on the wall at Shoreview Pharmacy, a fitting tribute to this man worthy of all our praise, honor and respect. He was a humble man, and I often wondered if he ever knew that we all respected him as our hero. I wish I had taken the time to tell him so.
Like many others, Buddy would stop from time to time and give Turk a ride into Lihu‘e, and we were saddened when there came a time when Turk had to use a cane as he meandered through the town. In spite of his disheveled appearance, we considered this man to be above us all…There aren’t too many heroes around. Maybe they did not feature Turk on any television shows, but we all knew him as a hero….Kapa‘a’s personal hero. Let us not call him an “unsung” hero…the people of Kapa‘a will always remember Turk and through the years sing his praises as a war hero. How lucky we are to have known this “man about town”. How appropriate that Turk should pass away on December 7th…the 53rd anniversary of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. His worldly medals and awards aside, our hero is getting his just rewards as God welcomed him home with “Job well done, good and faithful servant”! James “Turk” Takao Fukushima will be sorely missed.
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