I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. I’m a veteran of the United States Navy and an elder law attorney and I deal with veteran’s aid and attendance benefits and so I am very passionate about our veterans and their stories. My special guests today are Michael and Barry Carpenter, father and son and both were in the military.
I love to hear veteran’s stories and preserve them for future generations. So, Michael, you were in the Marines and Barry you were in the Airforce?
BC: Nine and a half years, special operations in the Airforce.
GM: Michael, how long were you in the Marines?
MC: Four years.
GM: Four and no more. What does Marine stand for?
MC: First in, last out.
GM: Navy was Never Again Volunteer Yourself. We had a lot of Marines and Marine squadrons who were on the aircraft carrier providing Marine security on deployment. Why did you join the Marines?
MC: I came out of high school and went to work in a mill.
GM: Are you from this area?
MC: Yes, born and raised in Gastonia. I went to work in a mill for about six weeks or so, and I said, there has got to be something better. So, I signed my name, took an oath and after I got to Parris Island I said, what am I doing here? Why am I here? That was October 1961, and I graduated December 14th, 1961.
GM: Wasn’t part of An Officer and a Gentleman and Full Metal Jacket filmed there?
MC: Yes, a lot of them were. Hamburger Hill, Pork Chop Hill, a lot of movies were filmed. There was a place down there on the coast, it was like a war zone, it looked like the trees and everything were all black. It looked like a lagoon but you walk out on it and wonder, is this part of the United States?
GM: Why does it look that way?
MC: I guess all the training they had in that area.
GM: How was Marine bootcamp?
MC: Today some of the guys I’ve talked with, they kind of say it’s a boy scout camp. They’re not as rough on them now as they were back then. Basic training was ten weeks and we were up at forty thirty in the morning, lights out at ten and you were constantly moving, constantly on the go. All kinds of physical training.
The first few weeks were book training, learning what you were going to apply yourself for. After basic, we went to Camp Geiger for infantry training. It was in January when we were there, and spent one week out in the field. It did something different every day, rained, sleeted, snowed, it was just a survival course for that week which we all came through.
After that we went to do duty wherever we were to be. I was a truck driver, got trained, and then went back to Camp Geiger where I drove the trainer bus as they called them to haul troops out to the training fields. I really enjoyed that after I had gone through it, knowing what they were going through. One of my favorite places was the gas chamber. I would go in there any chance I got and get my mask on. I would keep my mask on but not everyone else did. There was a tree outside the door with bark only on one side because they would come running out, eyes closed without their masks on and run straight in to it.
I learned to maintain and fire all the weapons. My last year in, I was stationed in Okinawa and that was an experience, a new culture. We would see how they lived, what they did, their work, the houses they lived in. There were times I wanted to go back and see what it’s like now.
We went back to Parris Island in 2000 and it was a totally different place. All the old barracks had been pulled down, new barracks had been built up and I watched one of the platoons and what the drill instructor was saying, and I reminisced back to when I was there. The drill instructor was lecturing on one of them but he wasn’t lecturing the way we were lectured. I would say they were more assertive when I was there. It was an experience. I learned a lot, I matured, enjoyed every minute of it, and served.
GM: I have never been to Okinawa, but I was in mainland Japan.
MC: When I went over, I went to San Diego to Camp Pendleton, and from there we got on an MSTS, Military Sea Transport Service. From there we went to Hawaii, and docked in Pearl Harbor, right across from the Arizona. Then we went to Japan, then out to Okinawa. We arrived there in mid-December 1963, and left last week of December 1964. The boat ride going over was something else. We sailed in to a storm going over. We were in the storm for two days, lots of sick people. Coming back was more pleasant. We left Okinawa and went down to Taiwan, back to Japan, then docked in Honolulu, then back to San Diego. It was about an eighteen day trip both ways.
GM: I went from San Diego to Hawaii and then to Japan on aircraft carriers.
MC: Which carriers?
GM: I was on the Constellation and the Nimitz.
MC: I saw the Constellation when I was in Okinawa. The port was too shallow for it to come in to the dock and was anchored probably five or six miles off shore.
GM: We docked in Hong Kong bay before and had to use transport boats to get in.
What do you think you took out of being in the Marines?
MC: Discipline, maturity and ambition.
GM: How did you take ambition from being in the Marines?
MC: Seeing a problem, recognizing what to do with it and fixing it.
GM: I was enlisted in the Navy and found out from myself and from my father who was also enlisted, that the only difference between an officer and an enlisted man is a piece of paper, a college degree. That gave me a ton of ambition to go ahead and complete my degree.
After you left the Marines you were a machinist, right?
MC: Since I left the Marines I worked in several different shops around Gastonia and Charlotte. I got an offer up here for full time in December 1977 and I’ve been there since. I got a good job that nobody wants so I call that job security. The product we run, the machines that we make are sent worldwide. Some of those parts we make on the machine, and I am the only person in the country that makes those parts. Some of the other guys might make one now and then but I’ve made thousands of them. They get sent out to Japan, China, Pakistan, Australia, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, England, Germany, Canada and Mexico.
GM: You’ve had a worldwide influence, that’s impressive. Being a machinist is a combination of using your head, mathematics and a hands-on job. Did you learn those skills in the military?
MC: No, when I got out. That’s what they say in the shop, engineers went to school and have it up there but you put one in a shop, they can’t get that knowledge from their head to a practical application. The philosophy is, they need to be in the shop five years before they become engineers.
GM: Was that on the job training?
MC: On the job training and some people would call it R and D, research and development. I called it T and E, trial and error.
GM: That’s the best way to learn.
MC: If you’re not making a mistake, you’re not doing anything.
GM: I feel like we live in a world where we’re not allowed to fail, where you can’t make a mistake. We as parents many times prevent our kids from making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, but the best way to learn is trial and error.
MC: Experience is the best teacher.
GM: There’s a ceo called Thomas J Watson, who talked about if you want to fast track yourself to success, you must double your rate of failure. That means you are out there trying new things and learning by doing to get it right. You also must be persistent. You can’t give up when you make a mistake or fail. You fix it and learn the right way.
Would you go in to the military again if you could do it over?
MC: That was one thing that, I got my four years, I’m out of here. A few years later, I thought, if I had put in twenty or thirty?
GM: I have the same thoughts. I would have been retired by now after twenty years.
MC: I went to grade school with this guy and he went in to the Marine Corp a year before I did. He put in thirty years, he was a Master Gunnery Sergeant. That was the last time I saw him in 1963 until 1990. He was eighty-nine at that time. I asked him how’s pay now, and at that time his base pay was thirty-two hundred a month. That’s not too bad, but I’ve got my family, four children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
GM: Sounds like things turned out great and thank you for your service.
Now the other mister Carpenter, Barry Scott Carpenter, you were in the Airforce, special Operations. What does that mean?
BC: It comes down to, you go, you do and you’re never seen. You’re in and out. If you were in a situation and were caught, or was in the wrong place at the wrong time, nobody knew you were there. It was kind of like the Green Berets, the Seals, similar to that type of thing. You did what you had to and got out as quick as you could. My whole career was not in special operations, that was the last three to four years.
I went in July 1987 to San Antonio and did six weeks of basic there, then went to Wichita Falls for my technical school, which at the time was metal fabrication. So, basically whatever had to be fixed on the aircraft or vehicles, you repaired it, painted it and got it back out as quickly as you could. Then I went in to cross training, so you were versatile for different areas if they needed you to go, which is where the special operations came in.
I went to Charleston South Carolina Airbase, next to the Navy base. I used to go over there all the time. From there I went to RAF Lakenheath in England, and I did four years over there. Then I went to Fort Walton Beach where I did my last couple of years in the special operations branch. I saw a lot of changes in the military, a lot of different aircraft and weaponry, different equipment for the Humvees. I was in Kuwait and Tel Aviv, that kind of tested your sense of being human. What you had to go through and what you saw over there, it was unbelievable. It was a short war, everyone thought it would last longer than it did. Thank God I never had any post traumatic syndrome or anything like that. I think God got me through a lot of it, otherwise it might have been a different story.
We left there and went to Incirlik Turkey for six months in case anything started back up, so we could run across the border and shoot back. I was in Kuwait and met King Fahd and was given a gold coin which I have to this day, as a representation of what happened.
The different types of things I saw, the cultures and experiences, it was a lot of big changes, like going out and seeing what you did, and what you were doing in your life. It made me grow up a lot. It was like night and day for me. I knew I had to make a decision that would make a better me and better my future, which it did. Being in the military helped me be a more proficient, practical person. Making the right decisions in my life, I came through with valuable experience. I got out in 1997 and tried civilian life and I regretted not going back in. I had nine and half years in, so just a few more years and I could have retired.
When I got out of the military I had some experiences in different careers but they weren’t really what I wanted to do until I went to truck driving school and got my CDL’s to drive a tractor trailer. I’ve been doing that since 2010. It’s rewarding and challenging at times. There’s a lot of hazardous conditions you go through which tests your mental and physical endurance and capabilities. I wouldn’t trade in anything I’ve done. Would I go back and do everything over again? Yes, definitely.
You have schooling in the military, it’s rewarding, there’s no place you can go for free and go to school and have a degree when you leave. For people who have never served, it’s something I think everyone should try and experience. It will reward you, make you grow a lot and give you extra responsibility.
My dad is my hero. My other hero is me, because only I can look forward X amount of months and say, where am I going to be that month? How can I better myself? I try to do this every three or four months and try to out-do what I’ve already done. So far it is working out pretty good. I set goals and accomplish them. Thank God for everything I have and haven’t got yet because I know there is a place for everything to happen in the world.
GM: It sounds like you have your act together.
BC: I try.
GM: Gratitude is so important, and recognizing our accomplishments. For your dad to be your hero, that is awesome. My dad is my hero also, if I could be half the man he is, I’d be doing alright.
I want to thank you both for your service and appreciate you joining me.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
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