The Story of Jon Michael Turner: A Marine’s Journey from War to Activism

Jon Michael Turner was a former United States Marine who served two tours in Iraq during the War on Terror. After his service, he became an advocate for peace and spoke out against the atrocities he witnessed during his time in combat.

“We as humans so often choose to look away from what we have endured. i truly believe that if we take the time to stare down what has once tormented us and embrace it, we can move forward with a healthier and more positive lifestyle. since jumping on board with the combat paper project in august of 2007, i have learned that finding ways to numb ourselves into not recognizing trauma, we tend to drive ourselves down the wrong path making it more difficult to unearth ourselves in the downward spiral in which we have placed ourselves. the cpp has helped force my mind and body in knowing that in order to come to terms with what happened, we must find several doors that will lead us in different directions, circulating through our psyche and healing each and every torn fiber that we are made up of. we as veterans have walked a line that many will not, we have seen things that most will never see and we have played a part in the war that we have created. it is up to us to re-weave the fabric that makes us whole. with the first cut of my uniform on a warm summer night in vermont, my outlook on the current events drasticly changed, sending me down the path that i was meant to walk. since then i have been able to express my feelings, my thoughts, my experiences in ways i never would have imagined of doing. when one sets out with the intention to heal, they are taking on a task that is very difficult at hand for we must relive these events, look at them from different points of view and then mend together what was once broken, the end result being a more optomistic point of view of themselves, society and the world in which we live. it took more courage to go back to these times than it did when they actually happened. it becomes easy to shut down, it becomes easy to walk away but if we keep running from what took place then we can never truly be at peace. the combat paper project is only a single tool on the shelf. it is up to us to venture out in search of our calling and find for ourselves how we must fit into society for the greatest good, but a helping hand along the way is always a good thing. so we must pass along this knowledge to all beings even if they do not share the same belief because eventually they might just understand where we come from. and for those that do, i truly hope that in time, we can all have a happier lifestyle.”
Jon Michael Turner
November 2009

Turner was born on November 10, 1982, in Richmond, Virginia. He joined the Marines in 2003 at the age of 20, shortly after the United States invaded Iraq. He served two tours of duty, one in 2004 and another in 2006.

During his time in Iraq, Turner witnessed numerous atrocities and human rights violations committed by U.S. troops against Iraqi civilians. He personally participated in some of these actions, which left him feeling disillusioned and emotionally scarred.
In 2007, Turner was honorably discharged from the Marines and returned home to Virginia. However, he struggled with PTSD and the guilt of his actions in Iraq. He eventually began speaking out against the war and the atrocities he had witnessed.

John Turner became a prominent anti-war activist and traveled across the country to speak at rallies and events. He spoke openly about the civilian casualties and human rights violations committed by U.S. troops in Iraq. He also advocated for veterans’ rights and mental health support for soldiers returning from war.
Jon Michael Turner was a returned Iraq War veteran, who had taken up the art of paper and book making since his return to the United States. Jon had also traveled with the Combat Paper Project, telling his story while teaching other veterans the art of papermaking and telling their personal stories. One of his famous poems is called “A Night in the Mind of Me”.

A Night in the Mind of Me – Part 1

The train hits you head on when you hear of another
friend whose life was just taken.
Pulling his cold lifeless body from the cooler,
unzipping the bag and seeing his forehead,
caved in like a cereal bowl from the sniper’s bullet
that touched his brain.
His skin was pale and cold.

It becomes difficult to sleep even after being
physically drained from patrols, post,
overwatches and carrying five hundred
sandbags up eighty feet of stairs after
each post cycle.

The psychiatrists still wonder why we
drink so heavy when we get home.
We need something to take us away
from the gunfire, explosions,
sand, nightmares and screams……….
I still can’t cry.
The tears build up but no weight is shed.
Anger kicks in and something else
becomes broken.
A cabinet
An empty bottle of liquor
A heart
A soul.

People still look away as we submit ourselves
to drugs and alcohol to suppress these
feelings of loneliness and sadness,
leading to self mutilation and
self destruction on the gift of a human body.
The ditch that we dug starts to cave in.

Unfortunately, on May 12, 2021, Turner passed away at the age of 38. His cause of death was not disclosed, but his legacy as a veteran and anti-war activist lives on.

Jon Michael Turner’s death was a great loss to the anti-war community, but his message of peace and accountability lives on. His bravery in speaking out against the atrocities he witnessed during his time in Iraq is a testament to his character and integrity as a Marine and a human being.

Despite the controversy and backlash he faced from some members of the military community, Turner remained steadfast in his commitment to speaking out against the violence and injustice he saw in Iraq. He recognized that the true cost of war is often borne by innocent civilians and soldiers who are left with physical and emotional scars for the rest of their lives.

Jon Michael Turner’s legacy as a Marine and anti-war activist will continue to inspire future generations to speak out against injustice and fight for peace. His story is a reminder that one person can make a difference and that it is never too late to stand up for what is right.