Veteran Marine Col Commits Suicide at Bay Pines VA

By Faye Higbee

Florida – Retired Marine Col James Flynn Turner IV loved the US Marine Corps. But on December 10, he donned his USMC uniform and medals, drove to Bay Pines VA Medical Center, sat down on a pile of his military records, and shot himself with a rifle.

Col. Turner left a note that read: “I bet if you look at the 22 suicides a day you will see VA screwed up in 90%. I did 20+ years, had PTSD and still had to pay over $1,000 a month health care.”

He became the 5th veteran to commit suicide at Bay Pines since 2013.  According to the article in Tampa Bay Times, Bay Pines has no answer for why. Col Turner was only 55 years old when he took his life.

The Tampa Bay Times reported,

Jim Turner flew F-18s and then became an infantry officer, taking part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He later served in Afghanistan and spent a decade working at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.

He left “an enduring legacy of professionalism, commitment and superior leadership which served as a guiding force for all service members whose lives he touched,” said Edward Dorman III, a recently retired Army major general who worked with Turner at Central Command for a decade. “That’s a life worth emulating.”

The Ghosts of War

We have written many times about the ghosts of war that follow service members home from deployment. In Turner’s case, his ex-wife Jennifer says that he came home “seemingly fine” but eventually became more aggressive: it’s what led to the dissolution of their 27 year marriage. She said he began to have nightmares and woke up “screaming military stuff.” He retired in 2015, which is when the anger grew worse.

In 2016, he became so angry that he chased his son out of the house with a gun, which led to Pinellas County detaining him under the Baker Act.

His brother Jon says that Jim’s identity was lost when he retired. Both Jon and Jennifer believe that Jim may have become frustrated at not being helped at Bay Pines and left, or could have been refused outright.

Was it the wait? Was he refused? He was certainly not “crazy” (PTSD is not a mental disease, it is a physiological problem from a buildup of chemicals in the brain). Not all VA hospitals in Florida have lost veterans on their premises. But here we have yet another tragedy that has left a family grieving and children that are now without support.

There is help available, even if it doesn’t come from the VA.