When you look at my grandfather at first glance, you may think he is just an ordinary grandpa. However, my grandpa is so much more inside. He may talk a lot, but he can teach you things that you won’t find in a textbook, give you good advice, and tell you the best life stories. It is extremely interesting to listen to him, especially when he’s talking about his experiences in the war.
When asked why did you join the war, Carlton laughed and responded, “I ask myself that my damn self. I guess I was just bored. There was just empty time in my day and I thought why not.” He went into the office and enlisted into war. They gave him a personality and education test. He dropped out two months before graduation and joined the army. “I was kind of stupid, I only had one credit left,” he said with regret. Later, he went to basic training. They taught him how to use a M-16, hand grenades, etc. After completing basic training, they sent him to jump school 82nd airborne. The soldiers learned to jump out of airplanes and specialize in parachute operations. Then they sent Carlton to sniper school. “Somehow my personality showed that I was fit to be a sniper,” Carlton said. “I always thought I was a good guy, but they thought I would make a good assassin.” Then finally his team arrived to Vietnam under supervision of a company apart of the CIA. They had all black uniforms since they were a part of the CIA and they weren’t supposed to be there. Their uniforms were unmarked because, they were undercover assassins. If you were caught you took a pill to kill yourself. “During my time in Vietnam, I earned my HALO badge, which is jumping out of airplanes at high altitudes. I did night recon, meaning we jump out at night time behind the lines and into captivity camps. Our undercover work required us to kill leaders on the other side and free American captives,” Carlton said. Afterwards, they put him in a pontoon. Carlton stated, “I can’t tell you much about my missions because, it was undercover work, but I can tell you I was scared, disgusted, and horrified. I learned that you had to control your emotions and just think quickly about your next move to survive. There was nothing positive about war. There were dead bodies and terror everywhere. I had PTSD after war and turned to drinking. To this day, my mind isn’t back to what it used to be, but I did get my drinking under control for my kids. I do regret how alcohol affected me. I wasn’t there for my kids and I really regret that so much.” According to U.S. News, about 15 out of every 100 soldiers suffered from PTSD after the Vietnam War. Carlton stayed in Vietnam for almost two years and already had symptoms of PTSD.
In 1975, they began pulling everyone out. On their way back from their last mission, they offered everyone an out. They could stay or get honorably discharged with two DD2-14 Forms. DD2-14 is a description of what you did in the army. One form was a secret because, no one knew what they did or who they took out. The other you could show to other people. Carlton couldn’t claim the medical benefits because, his injuries occurred on his classified DD2-14 form. He earned two bronze stars, one silver star, and two purple hearts. Purple hearts are for injuries. One time he was in a foxhole, which are usually filled with rats. You could either stay out and be unprotected or you could jump into the foxhole and fight the rats. Once he jumped in, he took out his knife and started killing the rats. The next morning, a motor round landed near his foxhole and hit half of his face. To this day he still has the scar. The other injury Carlton happened when he got hit with hot metal from air grenades on his leg. “War is ugly,” Carlton stated. “After all of that training, I still wasn’t prepared for the horrible things I witnessed.”
When they came back and got out of the helicopter, they were given orders to stay in camp for 4 hours. Then everyone that wanted to leave was transferred to another plane. They didn’t even get to change their clothes or give back their weapons. Everyone had blood all over their clothes because, they just got done with their final mission. Then they were transferred to their final flight and landed in LAX. “There were a lot of protestors because, a lot of people were against the war. When I got off the plane, a white hippie spat on me. We were not welcomed when we came back. They called us baby killers and all types of names. Everyone forgot that we didn’t have to defend their country,” Carlton stated with disgust and fiery. They gave the soldiers physicals for two days. Then they started processing the soldier’s papers, last pay check, and honorable discharge. Carlton said, “Everyone caught a bus home, but I bought a car. I wanted to see the world on my ride home. Luckily, I had a house to go home to. Many didn’t have anything when they returned.” According to National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 11% of the homeless population are veterans. It’s just sad to come back to nothing after giving your all for your country.
“When I came back home, I wasn’t right upstairs. I tried to get a job but I didn’t work well with others. The Veteran program set me up with a job at the national parks service,” explained Carlton. Then he went back to Roosevelt Senior High to take his last credit and get his diploma. Park service didn’t pay much, so he started working in the cocaine business. He became a mule. He would drive something to Florida and bring something back and bingo. Within three months, he was driving a Ferrari working for him. After a year, he finally told Rayford he wanted out. Then he went back to school at UDC and took computer science in 1981. This is when he met Doris Elaine Phillips. This was just supposed to be a summer fling, but she lied to him. She told him she was on birth control, but three months later here came his oldest daughter, Breck. He was in school and making little money, so he thought something had to change. Carlton knew he couldn’t go back to what he was doing, he had a child now. Then, he had another one on the way. He decided to start a company, The Plantry Landscaping Company, which specialized in grass cutting in 1984 until 1993. His training from the national park service gave him an advantage and all of the necessary skills for his business. It was him and Kevin Young, his buddy. Then he moved to Georgia and became the Sr. Operations Manager of Blue Diamond Construction & Landscaping, Inc. He got a contract cutting for HUD, Housing Urban Development, grass. He had 20 houses to start with in D.C. The prices started off at $25 a house. He also acquired many other contracts, such as FHA, FNMA, and VA. Then, my grandfather started HomeTek Contracting Inc. in Washington, D.C. from 2006 to 2014. His business specialized in residential and commercial architecture, plumbing, electrical, new home construction, landscaping, carpentry, etc. Finally, Carlton started his current business, Blue Star Contracting Inc. in Maryland. They provided full service general contracting and landscape.
After returning home from war, veterans find it very difficult to transition back to civilian lifestyles. Many turn to drinking, become homeless, suffer from PTSD, and are suicidal. My grandfather is a very strong man. His journey may have been tough, but he overcame his PTSD and alcoholism. He created a new life for his family and himself. I am very proud of the man he has become today. My grandpa and the other soldiers that returned that day were never thanked for their service. They were treated with disrespect, rather than praised for being brave enough to risk their lives for their country. Many soldiers may feel that war had a negative effect on their mentality, but it made them the man they are today.
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