Col. Don Carmichael, 90, joined the Army straight out of high school at 17 years old in 1943 because there was a "big war" going on and he felt obligated.
After WWII was won, he considered himself a professional soldier and went on to fight in two more wars — Korea and Vietnam — before he felt his obligation had been fulfilled.
"I went into the service to serve our country," Carmichael said. "I was proud of what I did. If I never did anything else, I was proud of that."
On Thursday in Veterans Memorial Park, Carmichael will be the featured speaker at the Pensacola Marine Corps League's Heroes Among Us Speaker series, celebrating 70th Anniversary, WWII Victory night. His presentation will include his story fighting in Normandy, the Chorwon and Kumwah valleys, and being the deputy commander of a task force in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.
Throughout Carmichael's 30-plus military career, he rose from private to colonel. Speaking on the wars he's contributed to, he said the roughest was WWII and that he was fortunate not to have been killed like so many others.
"Since I was a problem child, I did pretty well over there," he said. "I was proud to do what I was doing; and you are proud when you grow up in a (military) system like that. That's what I needed to mature more."
Carmichael fought with the 113th Cavalry from Normandy to the Elbe River. He was an assistant driver, gunner and tank commander in Fox Company, 113th Squadron. He said if he ever amounted to anything, it was because of WWII and the commitments that service members made to fight for the U.S.
"We were big guys getting ready for the invasion of Normandy," he said. "They called us the 'Dirty 30."
During the Korean War, he started out in Tank Company, 65th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division. Then during the Vietnam War, he was deputy commander of a task force in Vietnam. Carmichael switched units quite a bit during his time in the service and noted that the switches saved his life.
"You have experiences like that (switching) in every war," he said. "But it seemed like every time I moved, my former unit got hurt. When I was in Company A, Company B got hit, and so on and so forth."
But even fighting in the five WWII campaigns, and three Korean and Vietnam campaigns he's been in — all of which he served for three years — he survived.
"We're very proud of him, of course," said Carmichael's wife, Jean, 72. "Many of the things he did were very courageous. And for him to start out as a private then work his way to a colonel — we're proud of him."
Carmichael said serving in the military was his destiny and he was proud to serve his country at a time when they needed him.
"My three wars are probably unique," he said. "It was exciting and I was lucky."
WANT TO GO?
•WHAT: Marine Corps League Heroes Among Us speaker series, "70th Anniversary, WWII Victory Night."
•WHO: Veterans across eras and wars sharing their military service stories.
•WHERE: Veterans Memorial Park, 200 South 10th Ave.; inclement weather location is Rosie's in Seville Quarter, 130 E. Government St.
•WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday.
•CONTACT: Ed Rouse, Pensacola Marine Corps League public affairs, Heroes Among Us committee, 623-3250, [email protected].
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