Turkingtons glad to have son back from Iraq in time for Christmas | ParkRecord.com

Turkingtons glad to have son back from Iraq in time for Christmas

When President Barack Obama declared the end of the Iraq War, he gave the Turkingtons a Christmas gift they will forever remember their son Lucas.

Lucas Turkington, Specialist E4 in the United States Army, has spent the past four months providing security for the U.S. Forces in Iraq, but he’s home now, just in time for the holidays and his mom Debby is happy beyond words.

"We need to put a bow on his head," Debby Turkington said during a family interview with The Park Record. "We are so glad to have him home and very proud of him."

Turkington, known as Luke to his family and close friends, said he’s adjusting to the casual routine of home life.

"Living day to day and getting into the routine over there was good and it was a simple lifestyle and I didn’t have to worry about anything outside of what we were supposed to do," he said with a shy smile. "It’s nice to be home and around my family and friends again, but I’m trying to adjust from strict day-to-day to being able to do anything I want to do."

Turkington, who has two older brothers, Tyler and Barrett, graduated from Park City High School in the spring of 2008 and entered the service later that fall.

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"I wanted to do something different that was exciting that not a lot of people did," he said. "I was curious of what I would be doing over there."

Throughout his training, Turkington heard tales from others who had been to Iraq and back.

"No two stories were the same, so I wanted to get over and see what it was like and decide for myself if it was a good or bad choice," he said.

Without hesitation, Turkington says he is glad he went.

"I think it was the best decision of my life," he said. "Sure, I had some hard times when I didn’t want to be there anymore, but I couldn’t just come home. So, I was stuck there on bad days, some of the time, but overall it was a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Turkington’s assignments were mostly guard duties, but declined to elaborate because of standing orders.

"I didn’t see any action, fortunately, but I can’t talk about what we did, because I’m not sure how much I can say," he said. "We guarded things, but all the while we were over there, we couldn’t talk about anything at all."

Still, the assignments had a positive effect on Turkington.

"It was good being out there towards the end of the war," he said. "It was important to me to be out there at this point in history and know that I did something that made a difference."

When he enlisted, Turkington and his family didn’t know if he was going to Iraq.

"He signed up under the College First plan, so he had two years of non-deployable status and we were hoping he would go through the whole two years without incident, but that didn’t happen," said Debby Turkington. "I took it one step at a time and tried not to have a heart attack over every little thing."

Even when her son first talked about enlisting in the Army, Debby tried not to worry.

"Then he came and asked me to go with him, I went, ‘Well, OK,’" she said. "We initially wanted to talk him out of it, but since he had been talking about this for so long, we felt it would be better to support him, because he was going to do it, regardless."

After basic and individualized training in Georgia and Oklahoma, Turkington was assigned to a unit in St. George.

"I was down there and found out another unit needed volunteers to go to Iraq, so I volunteered last December and I was notified a couple of months later that I was accepted," he said.

The battalion, comprised of about 500 soldiers, mobilized in Camp Adderbury in Indiana on June 1, arrived in Kuwait in early July, and moved on to Iraq at the beginning of August.

"We were part of a bigger brigade that was about 3,000 to 4,000 people, but when we got there, even our battalion was broken up into smaller groups for other assignments," he said.

The main challenge for Turkington while on duty was to maintain his focus.

"That and deal with the lack of coffee," he said with another smile.

In early November, word got out that Turkington’s unit would be going home, but he didn’t pay too much attention.

"We had orders to be there for at least 400 days," he said. "Even after President Obama came out and said everyone was going home, the information got so jumbled and we really didn’t know for sure if it was true."

However, by Thanksgiving, Turkington and his family were waiting for more news with bated breath.

"We started thinking there was a real possibility of coming home at the beginning of November and right after that, it became clear we would be home before Dec. 31," he said.

Now that her son is safe at home, Debby Turkington plans to relax, and reflect on Luke’s decisions.

"He’s always been a driven person," she said. "He started volunteering at Hogle Zoo when he was 12, although he wanted to do that ever since he was 9, and won the Hearts and Hands Award. He put in 743 volunteer hours while going to school as well.

"I think that it’s his personality and what he’s done in the military is a growth of what he has always been," she said.