World War II vet will celebrate a century of life on Tuesday

Published 6:42 am Monday, October 3, 2022

Edward Carter was born in a shack on his family’s farm four miles north of Roanoke in rural Jeff Davis Parish on Oct. 4, 1922, but now resides at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home not far from the small town where he grew up.

Carter and his older brother, James, were raised on the farm where their father grew rice, a garden and raised cattle, and their mother raised turkeys, guineas and chickens.

“I had to get the milk cows up,” Carter said. “My Dad milked them, but I had to get them up and ready to milk.”

He gathered eggs and cleaned out the chicken house to earn a nickel a week. He spent the money on “soda pops” and watching westerns movies starring Buck Jones and Gene Autry every Saturday when he accompanied his mother to Jennings to sell her chickens and eggs.

“I remember the storekeeper telling my mother, the chickens always sold better when the races were going on in New Orleans,” he said, adding that people did not have deep freezers at the time and had to buy the fowls alive.

Carter, who received a pacemaker in January, said his secret to a long life is walking exercise, a healthy diet and receiving good care from his doctors.

“They’re the reason I’m alive today,” he said. “I’ve lived a great life and the way it has turned out, you couldn’t ask for any better.”

Carter was drafted into the Army in 1942 at the age of 20 while attending Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute (SLI), what is now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and served during World War II. He was discharged from service in 1946 at the age of 23 and returned to Roanoke to farm rice for a year before returning to college to graduate in business administration and accounting.

While in the Army, Carter took basic training at Camp Wolters in Mineral Wells, Texas. He sailed to the United Kingdom aboard the Queen Elizabeth, landing in Scotland in June 1942 before boarding a train to Salisbury, England where he served.

“There were 15,000 people on the ship,” he recalled. “You slept on the deck and got a bed every other night.”

He also recalls the ship zigzagging so the German submarines couldn’t find the ship.

While in Salisbury, Carter was assigned to guarding prisoners until someone threw something in the fire causing an explosion that injured his eye, nearly costing him his sight.

“They sent me to the field hospital with the idea to take my eye out,” he said. “Then they took me to hospital where a doctor from Boston, Mass. said he could save my eye, so I didn’t have to have a glass eye.”

After recovering, he was reassigned to work at what is now Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas where he served for two-and-a-half years. He also trained at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colo. before returning to Fort Sam Houston.

His older brother James, who served overseas, and was wounded in Germany.

Carter was home when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, bringing the U.S. into World War II.

“Everybody said where in the devil is Pearl Harbor,” he recalls after hearing the news of the attack. “They’d never heard of it.”

But the American people were ready to join the military and go fight for their country, he said.

“The American people were never so united,” he said. “There was an all-out effort by the American people that won the war.”

After serving his country, Carter returned home to complete college and worked for the gas company in Houma where he married the love of his life Lydia Erbelding, a teacher from Johnson Bayou. The couple moved to Lake Charles and were married 56 years until Lydia’s passing in 2008.

They had two sons, Richard and Frederick and a daughter, Bessie, 8 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

“The biggest thing in my life was marrying Lydia and the children,” Carter said. “That’s my whole life. Without my children I wouldn’t be nothing.”

Carter appreciates the excellent care he receives at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home and the prayers and visits from his home church, Trinity Baptist in Lake Charles. There are plans to celebrate his 100th birthday Tuesday with the veterans and staff at the home along with his family.