Editorial: Never forget our hometown heroes
You can leave your hometown, they say, but it never leaves you.
Beneath a simple stone marker — in a small cemetery across from Opa-locka Executive Airport, a stone's throw from Don Shula's Golf Club, in Miami Lakes, Fla., 1,455 miles from his birthplace — lies one of Schenectady's own.
A hero, not unlike many area servicemen and women who died in defense of our country. A hero, who like many others, we remember today.
This is his story.
Most people have probably never heard of Bruce Wayne Carter. He was born in Schenectady on May 7, 1950. His family left the city when he was a boy.
On August 7, 1969, Pfc. Carter was serving in Vietnam as grenadier with Company H, Second Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division.
On that day, his outmanned, out-gunned unit came under a heavy enemy fire.
His Medal of Honor citation tells the rest:
"Private First Class Carter and his fellow Marines were pinned down by vicious crossfire when, with complete disregard for his own safety, he stood in full view of the North Vietnamese Army soldiers to deliver a devastating volume of fire at their positions. The accuracy and aggressiveness of his attack caused several enemy casualties and forced the remainder of the soldiers to retreat from the immediate area.
"Shouting directions to the Marines around him, Private First Class Carter then commenced leading them from the path of the rapidly approaching brush fire when he observed a hostile grenade land between him and his companions. Fully aware of the probable consequences of his action, but determined to protect the men following him, he unhesitatingly threw himself over the grenade, absorbing the full effects of its detonation with his own body.
Private First Class Carter's indomitable courage, inspiring initiative, and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country."
In a 2001 interview, many years after his death, Bruce's mother, Georgia Carter Krell, told the Armed Forces Press Service that it took her a long time to believe her only son would not be coming home.
But eventually, she said, she had to accept it.
"They're not just dead and gone, she said. "They are our sons. We'll never forget them, so we don't want you to forget them."
There are many other hometown heroes, from many other wars.
Robert S. Craigan Jr., Michael Laymon, Benjamin Beadles, Lawrence Hennessey, David R. Crocker Jr., Orville and Martin Garvin, Thomas Robbins, Harry Borgia, George Pappas, just to name a few.
The list, sadly, goes on.
Like Pfc. Carter, they each put on the uniform of an American soldier, they each faced the enemy, and they each paid the ultimate price.
These were our sons and daughters. Our grandsons and granddaughters. They were our brothers and sisters, cousins and friends, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives.
In battle, they were our protectors. In death, they are our heroes.
And that is why we remember them today.
We don't want you to forget them.