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Steve Brackeen Turunc competes in an obstacle course during Officer Candidates School training during this undated photo taken aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. Turunc, whose late grandfather commanded a Marine rifle platoon during the Vietnam War, was among the 169 OCS graduates on Tuesday.

Photo by Photos courtesy of OCS

OCS grad follows grandfather’s footsteps into USMC

26 Nov 2014 | John Hollis Marine Corps Base Quantico

What began many years ago as a little boy’s distant dream became a heartwarming reality on Tuesday when Steve Brackeen Turunc graduated from the Officer Candidates School and became a Marine Corps officer.


Ten weeks after arriving at Marine Corps Base Quantico with the intent of following his grandfather’s footsteps, Turunc was among the 169 candidates to receive the gold bars signifying their status as newly minted second lieutenants before a large throng of friends and family at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.


The accomplishment was the realization of a dream for Turunc, whose grandfather, the late John Brackeen, commanded a Marine rifle platoon in Vietnam. Brackeen played a key role in preventing 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment from being overrun by a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force during Operation Swift in September 1967.


Brackeen’s life was spared on Sept. 6, 1967 when Sgt. Rodney M. Davis lunged atop an enemy grenade during a firefight just outside of Chau Lam. Davis was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, but Turunc has gone to great measures to honor both his grandfather’s valor and that of the man who made his own existence possible.


Brackeen’s widow says her husband would have been thrilled to see the oldest of his grandchildren fulfill the dream he’d harbored most of his life.


“He’s up in heaven grinning and doing flips,” said Gwen Brackeen of her late husband, who served two tours in Vietnam before succumbing to cancer in January 2010. “He’s excited about this. This is John’s oldest grandson.”


Turunc’s aunt, Smittee Root agreed, saying, “They were very close. I see a lot of my father in Steve.”


The journey has been a physically challenging one, but the 25-year-old Turunc persevered even as others succumbed to the constant fatigue and lack of sleep. His OCS class began in mid-September with 259 hopeful officer candidates, only to be whittled down by attrition.


“I have been so busy / stressed haha,” he recently wrote in a brief e-mail. “Entering week 9, so ten more days to go!!”


Fluent in English, French and Spanish and accomplished in Turkish and German as well, Turunc has lived abroad extensively and is nearly finished with a second master’s degree in international relations-international studies to go along with a previous one in political science. But it has always been his great love and admiration of his grandfather that drove him. Turunc’s grandfather was the subject of his thesis for his first master’s degree.


“They adored each other,” Gwen Brackeen said.


Turunc was long riveted by Brackeen’s service in Vietnam, and often spoke in detail with his grandfather about what it was like to command Marines in combat. His stated mission since childhood was to someday do likewise.


It’s been a dream come true, and next up is a six-month stay at The Basic School, where Turunc will learn the specific skills necessary to be a Marine combat officer.


“It’s such a great accomplishment,” Root said. “He always wanted to be an officer in the Marine Corps since he was six and a half years old.”