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Interview with Carol Deom [10/30/2003]

Emmy Huffman:

This is Carol -- and how do you say the last name?

Carol Deom:

Deom.

Emmy Huffman:

-- Deom. She was born September the 10th, 1950. She lives in Greencastle, Indiana. She served with the United States Marine Corps from September 18, 1968 to June the 19th, 1970. Her highest rank was lance corporal. Today is October the 30th, 2003, and my name is Emmy Huffman and I work in Senator Luther's office and we're doing this interview at Carol's church, the Foursquare Church, in Greencastle.

Emmy Huffman:

So what made you decide that you wanted to be in the military?

Carol Deom:

Well, when I graduated from high school I was 17 years old and I didn't have the funds to go on to school and so the next -- a friend of mine who was also my Spanish teacher joined the Marine Corps and so that was the next best thing. I couldn't get a factory job because you had to be 18 to work in a factory so about the only jobs you could get was babysitting and that didn't make any money, so I decided to join the military and I wanted to further my education while I was at it.

Emmy Huffman:

Why did you choose the Marine Corps?

Carol Deom:

Because my friend was in the Marine Corps.

Emmy Huffman:

Did she tell you all kinds of interesting things about the Marines or?

Carol Deom:

Well, I thought we'd be stationed, you know, together and she was, she was actually my Spanish teacher and she went to officer's school and became an officer and was stationed at Cherry Point, and the letter I got right before I joined up in great big bold letters, it said "Don't Join the Marine Corps," but I joined anyway.

Emmy Huffman:

You went to bootcamp down at Paris Island, South Carolina. What did you think of that?

Carol Deom:

Well, being young and I was scared, not street smart, and the kids came from all over and they knew so much and it was tough. It was very, very tough. You was scared every day that you was going to get demoted back into the next platoon, you know, and then you was scared every day that you just wasn't going to make it and they was going to throw you out. What do you do when you're 17 and you get thrown out of the service? You know, what do you do? So it was a scary adventure, but I'm glad I went through it.

Emmy Huffman:

What are some of the most important things you took out of bootcamp?

Carol Deom:

The friendship. I still am in contact, and we write frequency, with a friend that we went through there. The knowledge of the Marine Corps, the history of it, the marching, the inspections. It was all pretty good.

Emmy Huffman:

So how proud were you the first time that you were called a Marine?

Carol Deom:

Very proud. When we go in, you're called a recruit. You're the, you're the lowest. You're not even a civilian. You're the lowest. They call you recruits, and then on graduation day they pin your Marine Corps emblem on your uniform and they shake your hand and they call you marine then and very, very proud men. I'll tell you, we had a sig jacket that we wore and had buttons on it and a lot of us almost popped the buttons. It was cool.

Emmy Huffman:

So where did you go after boot camp?

Carol Deom:

I went to Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Emmy Huffman:

And what were you doing there?

Carol Deom:

I was in air freight.

Emmy Huffman:

What does that involve?

Carol Deom:

Air freight is taking inventory of any of the planes that land. That was an air station, and any planes that came in and landed we would go out with an inventory list that was sent to us of what was supposed to been on it and check to make sure it arrived and it arrived in good condition. We had everything shipped there. Bodies from the war was the main thing that was sent in, and we had big refrigerators. Sometimes we'd just get a baggy with a toe and a string on it that said somebody's name or something like that, and we also had tanks that was shipped in; men that was shipped back from the war, men that left there and went into the war, so it was quite interesting. We also got to fly out. For the cost of your meal which was 25 cents for a box lunch, and you had two sandwiches, an apple, chocolate milk, and cookies and for 25 cents that's what it cost you to fly and I could fly anywhere, anywhere they was going.

Emmy Huffman:

What was your typical day like then?

Carol Deom:

Well, I usually got up around -- this is after boot camp?

Emmy Huffman:

Uh-huh.

Carol Deom:

Okay. After boot camp we usually got up -- it all depends. You work shifts, like sometimes I'd work night shift, but on the day shift I'd get up around five and get in the showers and come back and get dressed and what we call square away our cubical. We lived in a great big barricks but each one of us wanted to have our individual rooms, so we would take our foot lockers and lockers and make a square with just a little entrance to come in and we had a bunky, a roommate, so we'd square that away, make sure everything was cleaned up, your bed was made right and everything, make sure your locker, all your uniforms are just so-so, and then we'd go to chow. Chow was like from six to eight, I think, or six to seven, something like that. So we'd go down to chow and we'd eat. Then we go back to the barricks and finish getting ready for work and we stand outside. We usually had a taxi or something that would come around and pick us up.

Emmy Huffman:

So once you got to work, how -- was it constantly things coming in that you had to deal with or --

Carol Deom:

During the day pretty much, and then we get an hour off for lunch, and usually one of the higher-ups -- my, my officer in charge was a gunny sergeant. His name was Gunny Sergeant Couch and he had an office right across from our desk and he would usually throw us the keys to his car and send us out to lunch, but a typical day we had planes landing and taking off and they got people coming. Sometimes, it's sort of like a terminal and sometimes it would be packed, I mean, packed with military getting ready to ship in and ship out. We had one guy in particular, he was a black guy, and he flew constantly. They flew him everywhere. He'd been in the military for 23 years and he was a private. He got bust -- every time he made rank he'd get busted and he was, he was kind of fun to see every day.

Emmy Huffman:

Yeah.

Carol Deom:

On night shift, we didn't -- it was kind of boring, kind of spooky and we didn't have a whole lot to do, and if you could get somebody from the tower, one of their flightmen, they guided the planes in with flashlights, and if nothing was coming in, you'd play cards or do something.

Emmy Huffman:

Can you describe for me maybe the difference of the troops you saw getting ready to go to Vietnam and those you saw coming back?

Carol Deom:

The ones that was going over was very much -- each and every one of them was going over there to win the war. Each and every one of them was going to do it single handed. They were young, very foolish. They were so young. And the ones that came back, the ones that I, you know, were getting to see, they'd come back, they were old men by the time they'd come back. They were totally different.

Emmy Huffman:

What goes into -- you mentioned some of the bodies from Vietnam would come back. Do you guys have some remembrance for each, like you see on the news, or was it different?

Carol Deom:

No, it was different. The planes would come in and they would -- they had them in the dry ice, I believe, and they'd come in and just me and whoever was checking them, whoever was bringing them off the planes, and they would just go through the tags and stick them, wheel them into the freezer. No ceremony. Nobody really knew anything about it.

Emmy Huffman:

You personally, did you have a special sort of remembrance for them or were you just doing your job?

Carol Deom:

At first it was, it was kind of sad, but then, you know, it got to where you was a little bit immune to it and it was just my job. I also brought in furniture and stuff like that.

Emmy Huffman:

So you moved some other things in too?

Carol Deom:

Yeah.

Emmy Huffman:

What are some of your most memorable experiences from your time at Cherry Point?

Carol Deom:

Well, one of them is, one of my superior officer's name was Captain Sergeant and I never gotten to drive a little sports car before and he let me drive his little sports car off the base, and they would salute me because it had a, had a captain's sticker on it. That was kind of neat. I never got to drive anything as fast and I got to take it out of town at night and I'd try to see how fast it would go. Luckly, nothing happened. When I was 17 and just shipped to Cherry Point, the Women's Marine, the Marine Corps birthday was in November, and they had a big ball and I was the youngest Marine on that base and I had to go to this ball. I'm not a fancy dressed person. Anyway, they hurried up and hustled me up a dress uniform, dress blues, and they, they helped me get ready and everything and then I was escorted to the ball by a guy, and then when I got to the ball they were all seated at tables and the oldest and the youngest had to dance together and the oldest was a four-star general and I never danced in my life and I was scared. I thought I was going to throw up on him really, I was so scared. That was probably one of my most memorable times in Cherry Point was that. I was so scared. It's like Cinderalla going to the ball, you know, and after that part and dinner, then I skipped out. I walked all the way back. It was like two miles and I was in high heels and I walked all the way back. I didn't want to stay any longer.

Emmy Huffman:

What are some of your other memorable experiences?

Carol Deom:

I had groups of friends that would do things, and the cost of stuff, like going to the movies was a dime, bowling was 25 cents, going swimming was 10 cents. We had a hurricane came through when I was there and you go through these hurricane drills and everybody's assigned to a certain thing, a certain part, and my assignment was to get all of the military children huddled into this building and I remember when it was coming in, it was like a mother hen gathering up all of her little chickens, you know. We was trying to get them all in there and it was scary, very scary. That was one of the times that I remember. You know, just going fishing out on the ocean, going out on the ships out on the ocean. We weren't able to leave port but we were able to tour some of the ships that was out there; flying in airplanes, C130, in the helicopter, in an F14; flying different bases. Those are great experiences. I went to California, went to Quantico, Virginia, went to Andrews Air Force Base and met Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Emmy Huffman:

What was that like?

Carol Deom:

Scary, it was scary. Me and another woman, Mary, dressed in dress blues and escorted two generals and we were like their stewardess and then we landed and we went through line, and when we went through line we had to stand at attention and salute and he shook our hand. So it was kind of scary, nervous. They put us up in a motel and that was really neat because everything was paid for by the military and we got to go out and got to go to different places that I'd never been to before, and so it's been a good experience.

Emmy Huffman:

What was it like being a woman in the Marine Corps?

Carol Deom:

Well, we were a minority. There were so many males. Someone took a survey one time and on our base alone there was like one thousand men to each female. These were single men, and one female had a choice of dating a thousand without interfering with your buddy's dating. So it was -- at that time we didn't have to shoot guns. Our physical training and things was pretty tough but I know not as tough as the men, and so I wasn't really -- I don't think I was ready to do a lot that the male did, but they still opened doors for you and they still treated you like a lady, so it was something.

Emmy Huffman:

Did you go on a lot of dates while you were at Cherry Point?

Carol Deom:

Yes. Sometimes, we all did this. We had on Saturday morning, we'd have a date and go out to breakfast and he'd pay for it, and if you was lucky you got the date who had a car, and then you have him bring you back by about 11 and you'd go in and shower and change and you get ready and go out to lunch with a different guy at one. And then at about five you went out for your evening meal and went out with a guy, and then you try to set up a date at eight o'clock to go out for the rest of the evening. So you could work in four dates at the same time with four different guys. It was hairy, though.

Emmy Huffman:

I can imagine. So did you spend pretty much almost the majority of your two years then at Cherry Point?

Carol Deom:

Yes.

Emmy Huffman:

Doing the air freight?

Carol Deom:

Yeah.

Emmy Huffman:

When it came time to get out did you ever think of reinlisting or?

Carol Deom:

I had gone to a navy recruiter. My life-long dream was to be an occupational therapist and when I joined up the recruiter said, "Oh, yeah, there's nurse's training in the Marine Corps." There's not, and the only thing we got was a first Red Cross lesson from a young lieutenant and when we asked him a question about our periods, he turned so red that, you know, so that was all the medical that I got. And so I had talked to the Navy recruiter right before my time was up and was planning on going into the Navy, but I ended up being pregnant and at that time they never let you go on with your career once you was pregnant.

Emmy Huffman:

Right. So when you got out of the Marine Corps what did you do?

Carol Deom:

I was a live-in babysitter until the baby was born, and then I came to Greencastle. That was in Indianapolis. Then I came to Greencastle and got a job at DePauw University in the laundry room and then I had my second child and then after that I taught at Head Start preschool. Then after that I went to a meter officer for the police department, and then dispatcher for the police department, and then I became a police officer.

Emmy Huffman:

So how long were you a police officer then?

Carol Deom:

23 years.

Emmy Huffman:

Do you think your training in the Marine Corps helped you with that?

Carol Deom:

Most definitely, because basic up there, what you have to go through in the academy is somewhat like that, the military. It's not as hard but it's somewhat like that.

Emmy Huffman:

And you had already passed all that in the Marines, so it seemed easy.

Carol Deom:

Yes.

Emmy Huffman:

When you think about your time in the service, how proud are you to say that you were a veteran and that you served your country?

Carol Deom:

Very proud. That is one experience that I am glad that I went to. The hardships, the sad times and good times, it's one experience that I am very proud. You can go through all kinds of life experiences and that, serving my country, is one that makes me very proud, and these protesters, especially during the Vietnam War, you know, I could never, never really understand why they did that. That was -- you got to understand, I was young and I can never understand why they protested and why they were not proud to fight for their country, and the ones that went to Canada and, you know, I just couldn't understand it until I got a little bit older and I had a son myself and I thought he's 17 and 18 years old going to a foreign country and having to shoot somebody you don't even know. That's got to be scary. No wonder they protested. I'm proud that I served, but I will not put anyone down that was a deserter.

Emmy Huffman:

When you think about it, how proud are you to be a Marine?

Carol Deom:

Very proud. The Marine Corps is a tough branch. They all are respectable branches. Marine Corps just drills into your head that you're the best.

Emmy Huffman:

Do you still believe that?

Carol Deom:

Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. You get me around a Navy guy and, see, actually -- oh, this is on tape so I can't really tell you. The Marine Corps and the Navy are real close. They're like brothers and sisters, you know, but the Navy would help the Marine Corps, but also the Marine Corps will fight the Navy. So I'm very, very proud of what we did out there.

Emmy Huffman:

You mentioned that you're still in contact with some of the people that you served with. How often do you get in touch with them?

Carol Deom:

Oh, we -- Rose, she was at Cherry Point with me and in basic with me. She was from Kansas and we write probably once a month. We lost contact for about ten or twelve years and I sent a Christmas card to her address one day and got a card back from her. She says I haven't lived in that address for ten years. I don't know why I ever got that card. But since then, we've stayed in real close contact with each other.

Emmy Huffman:

Do you guys talk about your time in the service very often or?

Carol Deom:

We'll mention it. I never had a birthday cake until I was 18 years old, and I turned 18 in the military and Rose bought me my first birthday cake and had a party with balloons and all that stuff, so that was kind of neat. And my best friend, actually when I first got there, was a guy named Mike Lemon. We didn't date. He was more like a brother to me and we were real close. I mean, he'd let me have his car whenever I needed a car and he met my friend Rose and wanted to go out with her. And I said, "Hey, Rose, why don't you go out with Mike." And she says, "I wouldn't go out with that guy if he was the last man on this earth," and they ended up getting married.

Emmy Huffman:

Come back to haunt you.

Carol Deom:

Yeah.

Emmy Huffman:

You talked about your Spanish teacher. Did you ever get to hook up with her at Cherry Point?

Carol Deom:

Sometimes. Quantico and Cherry Point wasn't that far away, so sometimes I'd take a hop up there. That was the nearest station also and sometimes she would drive down. She had a car. I didn't have the luxury of having a car in the military, but I did have the luxury of dating guys with cars so, yeah, she'd come down. The thing of it is you weren't to be friends with officers. I was a peon, an enlistee, and she was an officer. So when she would come to Cherry Point, she was a civilian and when I'd go to Quantico I was a civilian. We never let anyone know that we were in the military.

Emmy Huffman:

Sneaky.

Carol Deom:

Yeah.

Emmy Huffman:

That's all the questions I have for you. Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

Carol Deom:

No, I don't think so.

Emmy Huffman:

All right. Well, thank you very much. We're done for today.

 
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