(Top) Gregory Carter’s new marker at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, 50 years after he was killed in battle in Quang Ngai Province in South Vietnam. (Bottom) PFC Gregory Carter (Taimy Alvarez / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
By Staff Writer
His gallant services in Vietnam lasted just three months. A Dillard High School teenager 50 years ago, Pfc. Carter was drafted into the Marines, and on the Fourth of July his tour of duty in Vietnam began.
Military records say on October 12, 1969 (family says he died Oct. 6, 1969) Pfc. Gregory Carter, a young father at 19, was killed in action in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. His body was brought home to Fort Lauderdale, where he is buried near his mother.
For nearly fifty years Carter’s body has rested in an unmarked grave.
Recently the Vietnam Veterans of America discovered Carter’s anonymous status in the city cemetery and a dedication ceremony later this month will be held, honoring him with a new headstone.
In a recent vote city commissioners approved the $395 cost for the bronze marker with a granite base in Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery which is owned by the city.
Carter’s unmarked graved was discovered when the Vietnam Veterans of America searched the area for a photograph of Carter. The group is undertaking efforts to find pictures of all servicemen and women who were killed in Vietnam so that they can be enshrined on the black, granite Wall of Faces in Washington, D.C.
Lt. Col. (Ret.) James Davies of The Villages, wrote in an email to the city cemetery. “I did not feel that any U.S. Serviceman or woman who died for their country should lie in an unmarked grave,” Davies is the Marine who lead the charge. “But, this has been remedied.”
Mike Owens, one of Carter’s brothers, said other men and women in the family served in the military. Carter was one of 15 children, he said.
Carter played baseball at Dillard High, he was the son of Wesley Carter and Annie Carter Owens, residents of Fort Lauderdale.
When Carter left for Vietnam, his son Lester Jones Sr., who owns the Neighborhood Unisex Barbershop on Sistrunk Boulevard, was almost two years old. Carter and Jones’ mother were engaged to be married, Jones said, “but he never made it back home.” When Jones’ mother saw him last, she was pregnant, with a daughter who would never meet him as he never returned from Vietnam alive.
Jones live his memories of his daddy through family conversations, “just filled with joy by my family telling me about him,” he said.
In Vietnam, he was part of a squad of 13, and was killed in battle with North Vietnamese Army forces in Quang Ngai Province in South Vietnam, according to the veterans’ group.
Davies said Carter’s Combined Action Platoon had a “dangerous duty because you were working in small hamlets away from the main battalion,” which in Carter’s case was the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
Davies said he couldn’t find a living family member and was pleased they came forward Thursday after reading about Carter on the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s website. The quest was personal to Davies.
“This is all poignant for me since I walked the same ground with the Marines in 1967,” he said in an email.
The vets couldn’t even find a photograph, at first. After multiple trips to the area, one of the group’s genealogists, Beth Braun, paged through a Dillard High yearbook and spotted Carter in the baseball team photo.
His image is now on the Wall of Faces in D.C., on Panel 17W, Line 70. More than 58,000 service members died in the Vietnam War, and nearly all of them now have photographs on the wall.
Braun wrote a note on the Wall of Faces website, saying she was proud of the veterans who worked to get his gravestone: “Rest in peace, Gregory … you are not forgotten.”
The Florida veterans also discovered an unmarked Pompano Beach grave, where Army Private Thomas “JT” Burton was buried. Burton was killed in Vietnam a month after he arrived in 1968. He had just turned 21. A ceremony will be held at Burton’s grave at 9 a.m March 23 in Pompano Beach Cemetery, 400 SE 23rd Ave.
Family members said they tried un-successfully to get him a marker through the military. They couldn’t afford the $2,000-plus bill they said the cemetery quoted them.
Even to those who never met Carter, the effort to honor his burial site means something.
“This event is very important to all of us who both served in the Marine Corps but during the Vietnam War as well,” Charles Schneider, an “old Marine” involved in the marker effort, said in an email. “I cannot express to all of you younger folks exactly the feelings and emotions this whole deal dredges up for many of our friends and brothers.”
At 11 a.m. March 23, Carter’s ceremony will be held at Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery, 3201 NW 19th St., in Fort Lauderdale. His son, siblings and other family members said they’ll be there for the ceremony and final salute.
Some information contain from this article came from the South Florida Sun Sentinel