Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of an article by local military veteran Paul Butler, who writes periodic stories on Clinton County veterans for the News Journal.
World War II in Europe officially ended on May 8, 1945 (VE Day) with Germany’s unconditional surrender.
However, not all of the 3 million U.S. military personnel serving in the European Theater at that time were brought home right away. Many remained to maintain the cessation of hostilities and to assist America’s allies in the rebuilding of their homeland.
This remaining U.S. contingent included one Theodore (Ted) Carter, who, serving in the Army Air Corps, continued his tour of duty at an airfield near Yorkshire, England.
For Ted, staying there was not a real problem, as his young British wife, the former Gladys Lees, was expecting their first child.
The couple lived in a small house near the base, where on the 25th day of November 1945, they would welcome a baby boy they named Grant Lees Carter. Born with dual citizenship — British and American — Grant was just six months old when the family left his country of birth and traveled to the country for which he would later take the same oath his father had taken years before — to “… support and defend … against all enemies …” — the United States of America.
Ted took a job at Wright Patterson AFB and they settled down in the Dayton, Ohio area, where the family would grow from three to five, with the births of Philip and Wanda.
Grant loved playing basketball and made the Stebbins High School JV team as a freshman. Unfortunately his dream of playing throughout his high school years ended his sophomore year when he was (the last one) cut from the team. Undaunted, Grant went on to play tennis, run cross country and was on the track team until he graduated and went off to college.
Grant began his post-secondary education at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. A year and a half passed and college life was great, with the exception of his growing concerns over what, in the early and mid 1960s, was called a “conflict” in Vietnam and possibly being drafted.
In February 1966, those concerns were validated when Grant and a close friend, Mike Puckett, received their draft notice. After a brief conversation that included another buddy, Roger Tackett, the decision to enlist rather be drafted was unanimous, and so was the branch of service in which they would enlist — the U.S. Marine Corps.
The three men took advantage of the 120-day delay program, with the optimistic thought that by the time they reported for and completed boot camp, followed by six months of training, the “conflict” would be over and they would probably spend the balance of their commitment stateside. In June 1966, the three friends left for Recruit Training at Camp Pendleton in California.
December 1966 found Carter in South Vietnam, assigned to Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. He was the first of the three to arrive in Vietnam, but Mike and Roger were to follow shortly thereafter.
Three friends, three stories, three outcomes: Mike Puckett died at an early age from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange.
Roger Tackett was shot while crossing a river in South Vietnam and would have drowned if it had not been for a medic who saw him go under and quickly pulled him above the water. Roger returned home and went on to serve as a Clark County Commissioner, even though was paralyzed since that fateful day in 1967.
Today, Roger’s wife says to Grant: “I’m jealous of you, you’re the last one to see him standing up.”
Grant Carter did not leave Vietnam unscathed.
Far from it.
To be continued…
The writer, Paul Butler, is a Wilmington resident, U.S. Navy veteran, and a Class of 2020 inductee of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
In September 2020, Clinton County recognized Paul for his “dedication and commitment in military service as well as his exceptional post military advocacy and volunteerism for the veteran community.” A 2020 News Journal article called him “the voice and the fountain pen for Clinton County veterans organizations and related projects.”