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Remembering life during war

The life of Bill Carter is one steeped in war, love and history.
The 85-year-old World War II veteran spent several years stationed in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands as a mess sergeant. Back surgery kept him out of the battle zone.
A Lincolnton native, Carter entered the guard in 1940 and was deployed to Fort Jackson, S.C. in 1942 before going to Alaska.
Carter’s job required him to work two shifts everyday and prepare meals from numerous army recipe books. He usually served around 100 people.
He looks fondly on his time in Alaska, but it is a place he has no desire to visit again.
“Don’t ever go to the Aleutian Islands on vacation, there’s nothing there,” he said.
However, he does keep in touch with the remaining men he was deployed with, meeting them at Sagebrush near the beginning of September every year, the day they entered the armed forces. The number of men has dwindled from around 97 to only nine.
Every year more and more of the remaining members cannot make the meeting, but Carter makes sure to spread the news of each one and keep in touch.
Being one of the remaining nine is something that he doesn’t see as remarkable.
“I’m just here,” he said. “The Lord is keeping me here.”
Carter experienced a much bigger gathering two years ago when he visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. with his family. More than 200,000 veterans assembled.
“That’s the greatest thing that I ever went to,” he said. “You’d be surprised the people we saw.”
Carter is not the only one in his family with a storied military past. His grandfather, William Jackson Carter, was a veteran of the Civil War.
Carter’s grandfather was the only one of three other brothers to survive the war between the states. Two were killed during the Battle of Richmond and one was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The younger Carter does not remember much of his grandfather, except for his burial in 1924, when Carter was 4 years old.
His grandfather was buried in a casket made of wooden planks and carried to a cemetery in Lawndale in a two-horse wagon.
“I just remember sitting in the wagon going through the field going to my uncle’s house,” Carter said.
Though he lived relatively close, he didn’t revisit the site until two years ago when he took his granddaughter to see the grave.
While being a World War II veteran and having a Civil War veteran for a grandfather are definite historical accomplishments, some people find it more impressive that Carter stayed married to his wife, Mary Elizabeth, for 60 years.
The two were married in 1941 and met in his father’s cafй, which was next to where Melamoose is today.
“I saw her walk past the window, and I tapped the window, and she smiled at me,” he said. “I got to date her, too, and that was it.”
Their marriage received recognition from Presidents George and George W. Bush.
Carter has kept memorabilia from his 85 years, including his dress coat and an original Life magazine from 1936.
Though he is getting older, the memories are still fresh in his mind. It is that passion for the past that keeps Carter and many others celebrating and remembering every Veterans Day.
“I’m going uptown to see the parade,” he said. “I might get out and sit in my wheelchair.”
by Mary Williams

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