Veteran's Day #NeverASpectator Stories

Colonel, U.S. Army

My Father, Peter S. Carpou, was our family’s “Papa".  Husband, Father, Grand & Great-grandfather he was our patriarch who shared his wisdom and guidance with patience as needed and his love in abundance without exhaustion.  Dad was part of the Greatest Generation, his adolescent upbringing in the small town of Verona, New JersEy, during the Great Depression.  Born in 1920 he was attending The Juilliard School of Music in New York City when WWII broke out in December of 1941.  He received his Draft notice in February 1942 and was conscripted into the United States Armed Services, reporting to Fort Dix N.J.  

After Basic Training and being selected to attend Officer Candidate School, Peter was eventually assigned to General George Patton’s 3rd Army as a 1st Lieutenant. He departed New York Harbor for the European Theatre of War on-board the Queen Mary in 1944 where unbeknownst to him, Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a passenger of secrecy.  The Prime Minister’s request  for Hymns to be a part of Sunday Church Service on the Ship found Peter accompanying a make shift choir, playing the piano which was his area of focus at Juilliard. 
As part of the 11th-Armored Division, 42nd Tank Battalion Peter’s baptism of combat came through the Fall/Winter of 1944/45 with his unit’s fighting in the Battle of the Bulge where German Forces had made a surprise attempt of a counter attack on the advancing allies.  The fighting was fierce and cold and to this day is considered by Military Historians as the greatest American Battle Victory by the United States Army.  The 11th fought  its way through France, Belgium, Germany and down into Austria where they eventually liberated the notorious Nazi Concentration Camp, Mauthausen, in May of 1945.
Dad came home from the War and never returned to pursuing his musical aspirations at Juilliard but instead finished out his University Studies at NYU eventually with a Masters Degree in Business.  This went on to serve him well with a professional career in the Retailing Clothing Industry for nearly 50yrs.  When I once asked him why he never returned to his previous love and discipline of music as a possible career , his reply was simple yet sad- “I lost the magic” was all that he would say yet I knew what he saw through the war stole something from his soul.  While never making a living form his God-Given Musical Talent along with years of hard work and practice, the same Baby Grand Piano which my father first purchased at the age of 16, graced our many Home’s Living Rooms and was played nightly by this man of gentlemanly grace and beauty.
A unique veteran by any standard, my Father stayed in the Army Reserves, being Called back to Active Duty in 1951 during the Korean War after being married to my mother for 10-days and then separated for a year and a half as he went overseas once again.  Along with my older Brother and Mother, we joined Dad for a second call back to active duty in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis where we were stationed stateside at Fort Bragg N.C. as part of the 82nd Airborne Family.  In 1974 Dad left the Reserves but not before achieving the rank of a Full Bird Colonel.  Peter Carpou left our world on October 9th, 2017 at the age of 97 after living fully, positively impacting thousands of lives with much joy, love, faith and wedded bliss to his Bride of 66 years, Bella.
Here’s to you Papa, a toast and raising of our glass to honor you and your fellow Warrior Veterans on this special day of remembrance.  Thank you to all the Veterans and Active Duty Military Personnel who have given and continue to serve our country, unselfishly with tireless commitment.  May the exemplary lessons of working together for the common good of Country and Humanity serve as a lesson with some of the challenges we now find ourselves with in our world. God Bless!

U.S. Army

During my service I spent 15 months in the Frozen Chosin or known as the ROK. Simply put, it has the hottest summers as well as the coldest winters, all due to its northern border with both Manchuria and Siberia. Just thinking of it gives me chills!

U.S. Marines

July 10, 2005 was the day Joe gave his life for this great nation. Joe was a police officer outside of Pittsburgh, PA. The attack on September 11, 2001 devastated Joe and he knew he had to re-enlist into the Marines. Joe left his wife, Amy, and family and did several tours in Iraq until he was killed in action on July 10, 2005.
Joe was the guy that always had a smile on his face, no matter what, he just had that smile. Joe was a family man, a police officer and a warrior. Joe devoted his life to serving and paid the ultimate sacrifice for a country he loved.
We honor Joe ‘Goody’ (as we all called him) every day down in Key West. A year after his death, we all got together - roughly 40 of us ‘Finishers’ as we call our group - and dedicated a plaque to Goody at Sloppy Joe's. If you are facing Sloppy Joe's as Duval is at your back on the right-hand side of the front bar (Duval wall) you will find Goody’s plaque. He is with us each and everyday; soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines stop by on occasion and do a toast with Goody. Key West has a special place in all our hearts and honoring a true Patriot that sacrificed all so others can live was Goody’s calling.
-Kevin McCue, U.S. Navy

British Royal Navy

I am a veteran of the British Royal Navy and my story is about the HMS Argonaut in 1982 during the Falklands Campaign. HMS Argonaut was a Leander Class Frigate and on the 21st May 1982 was part of the Falklands Task Force, I was part of the ships flight operating a Lynx Helicopter off the back of the ship as maintenance crew.
On 21st May 1982, Argonaut was the last ship into the water between the islands, we are attacked the first time by an Argentine MB339 aircraft, Gunfire and rockets in this lone wolf attack, 3 people were injured and damage was done to some of the radar equipment.
During the day, many of the task force were attacked and damaged and one was sunk. Later that day was our turn. We were going full speed when 5 A-4 Skyhawks of the Argentine Air Forge attacked us, and 2 x 1000lb bombs penetrated the ship kiling 2 crew, on Bomb penetrated the boiler room directly below where we were as we were trying to evacuate the injured off the ship, this did massive damage to the engines and one boiler. The other bomb enters the forward missile magazine, this one claimed the lives of or two magazine handlers, as the bomb had passed into the magazine it had damaged the adjacent forward diesel tank, the resulting fire caused some munitions to start detonating, but the diesel tank ruptured and put the fire out mostly, as crews began to fight the fires and prevent the ship from sinking Argonaut was headed toward a 600ft rock cliff at full speed, a young Sub Lt ran up to the anchors and dropped both of them arresting the ship and turning it away from the cliff.
Fortunately for us, neither bomb had exploded. It took almost two hours to put the fires out and get everything under control but the ship was dead, no power no water - Nothing. The night of the 21st may was spend taking stock of what had happened and also reeling in the anchor chains by hand which took all night, she was towed into San Carlos Water (Known then as "Bomb Alley") to effect repairs.
Both bombs were unexploded and the boiler room bomb was defused successfully and removed, the magazine bomb was a different story, we did not know if it would detonate at any time, the bomb was damaged and could not be made safe, so a plan was put into place, they would evacuate most of the crew nightly while they dealt with this bomb, they would cut holes in the decks above the magazine, then slowly winch the bomb up and then over the ships side via a hole made in the hull.
It took around 4-5 days to move the bomb, and after placing it on the bottom, they moved us a safe distance. During the disposal of the bomb the leftover diesel in the magazine caught fire when a welder dropped his torch, further causing us to fight the fire for another couple of hours, with a 1000lb bomb in the magazine surrounded by the fire, all told at least a 3rd of the ship was unusable, the keel was twisted and parts of the superstructure were cracked. After six worrying days we had power, one engine and one boiler, we ailed the ship 8000 miles back to the UK to a massive welcome.

U.S. Navy

I am the fourth generation of now a six generation military family. My father was a Navy Chief and had just returned from one-year setting up the first five Swift Boats in Vietnam as I was preparing to enlist in the Marines. At my father’s strong suggestion, I changed my mind and joined the Navy. He had brought back first-hand knowledge of what was happening in Vietnam in 1965/1966 and maybe for the first time in my life, I listened and took his advice.

But this story is not about my military service. It's about my dad and his strong desire to serve in the Navy. He enlisted prior to WWII and had to search out a recruiting depot that would take him due to his flat feet. After Bootcamp, he was stationed on a destroyer and found himself as part of a crew escorting ships across the North Atlantic and chasing German U-Boats. After December 7, his destroyer was deployed to the Pacific, where he served until the end of WWII. He rejoined the military and served Korean War and extended to go to Vietnam. He was “the Chief” and he was my dad.

U.S. Marine Corp

I had the opportunity and the good fortune to meet this veteran later in life. The American Legion Rider chapter which I had chartered in 2014 stumbled into helping “ Motorcycle Man” ( Dr. E. Bruce Heilman). We met while recruiting members at Harley Retail location outside of Richmond, Va. He needed help in planning a motorcycle ride across the U.S. in honor of the “Spirit of 45” and Gold Star Families. This would be a 6,000 mile trip on a two-wheel motorcycle and Dr. Heilman was 88 at the time.

The Legion Riders stepped up and set on planning a course across the country for this WWII Marine who was a high school drop out. Dr. Heilman returned from his WWII deployment to the Pacific after WWII and used his GI Bill to get not only his high school credits but to get his undergraduate degree, to a Masters and then a Doctorate. He went on to become President of Meredith College in North Carolina and later President of the University of Richmond Virginia.
He never forgot his roots and the United States Marine Corp who had guided him in his growth as a young man and throughout his life. He exemplified “Duty, Honor, Country” and he lived his life helping others and serving veterans throughout our country. He was truly a voice for the Greatest Generation and Veterans and their families.
Dr. Heilman’s statue now stands on the grounds of the Historical Society in LaGrange Ky. He is forever a part of his Harley in the sculpture titled “ Road Warrior”.
Semper Fi
-Bob Christie, U.S. Navy

U.S. Air Force

I served in the United States Air Force as a physician from 1984-1993, and was deployed during Operation Desert Storm. Luckily, we encountered very few casualties but that experience gave me an even better perspective on my service. I encountered brave men and women of all walks of life, different religions and races who had one objective: defeat evil in the name of the United States of America. They were willing to die for this great country, as was I, if necessary, and I burst with pride every day of that luckily short-term war. This was the proudest time of my life.