Quadruple amputee offers Veterans Day message in Windom

WINDOM -- Attendees that filled Windom Area High School's gymnasium Friday morning to honor veterans expanded their vocabulary. Guest speaker Jan Turner, a quadruple amputee from Willmar, began her motivational speech by introducing "differently-...

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Jan Turner, a quadruple amputee from Willmar, addresses a full Windom Area High School gymnasium of students, veterans and citizens during Friday morning's Veteran's Day Program in Windom (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WINDOM - Attendees that filled Windom Area High School’s gymnasium Friday morning to honor veterans expanded their vocabulary.

Guest speaker Jan Turner, a quadruple amputee from Willmar, began her motivational speech by introducing “differently-abled” to guests’ vocabulary.

“There’s nothing wrong with that word - disabled,” she said, “but I just choose to use the word differently-abled.”

After not being expected to live after being stricken with pneumococcal pneumonia in 1989, Turner has been able to turn what she was dealt - the loss of her arms and legs - into something positive, and shares her experience and attitude through motivational speaking.

“I live a full, active life with the help of prosthetics,” Turner told Windom area students, veterans and residents.


Friday, though, was about patriotism and the ultimate sacrifice veterans across the country have made to defend the nation and its citizens’ freedoms. Turner shared with guests what she called the three “C’s.”

“Our veterans epitomize character, courage and compassion,” she said.

Character - who someone really is, she said, should not be confused with reputation, in which a person is based on another’s perception.

“A person of character is a person who does right because it is right,” she said. “No matter the cost, you will rise, you will shine and be honored.”

To further demonstrate her message, she used an analogy common to many in the agriculturally abundant area. When positive-action seeds are sown, a positive habit is harvested, she said.

“When you plant those seeds you’ll reap a character,” Turner said.

Turner also asked guests to possess enough courage to be people who take stands for things they’re passionate about.

“There are good people who will stand with you if you’re standing for what’s right,” she said. “Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything.”


The final “C” - compassion - encourages individuals to employ what Turner dubs “ICAY” (I care about you) attitude.

“People don’t care what you know until they know you care,” she said.

Veterans are a collective group of individuals that understand what it means to be compassionate, she said. They consider all individuals as “10’s,” regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status or ethnicity.

Turner charged guests to continuously chase inspiration and commit effort and energy to their passions. Following passion will not only lead to happiness and contemptness for one’s self, but that trait will then be passed down and shared with others, which is not something to be taken for granted.

“Veterans defended our right to choose our futures,” she said. “We can show honor to our veterans by allowing their lives to shape our future … by upholding the values and ideals that they subscribe to.”

Turner’s message was made complete with special patriotic music from the Windom Area High School band and elementary, middle and high school choirs.

The program concluded with recognition and a moment of silence for the 15 former Windom American Legion Post 206 members that passed away since last year’s Veterans Day program.


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