John Carson — Putting the veteran first
Born and raised in the Victoria Ridges community of Marion County, John Carson joined the Navy in 1957 at the age of 17 — just after graduating from Marion County High School.
“I was sent to San Diego for training and assigned to a little bitty ship — APD 123, the Diachinko — for about two years doing a nine-month tour in the Pacific,” Carson said. “We worked with an Underwater Demolition team, now called Navy SEALs, for about a year. Their small boat was housed on our ship. During that tour, we were in Japan and the Philippines.”
The ship was later decommissioned and Carson was sent to the East Coast, later serving in Barbados and other islands of the West Indies. As a diesel mechanic, he helped produce electricity for the bases on the islands. After a tour of duty in the islands, he was transfered to Mayport, Florida, and served tours of duty in the Mediterranean Sea, spending time in Spain, Italy, France and Germany.
“After the second Mediterranean tour in 1967, which was during the Vietnam War, I thought it was time for me to go home. Although now I kind of regret not staying in to retire — at 37!” Carson exclaimed. “I got married on my last tour. That was another reason to get out when I did.”
Carson married Linda Faye Havner, a Marion County girl from the Sweetens Cove community. They were happily married for 49 years before Linda passed away in 2015. The couple had two children, John and Melinda.
“I worked 32 years at Wheland Foundry as a mechanic until the foundry shut down,” Carson said. “I went to work part time as a veterans’ service officer in Marion County in 2012, and I have been doing that ever since.”
Even though the job is officially only three days per week, Carson works diligently seven days weekly helping veterans get the benefits and health care they earned through their service and now need for a good quality of life.
Carson said that when he took the job, he was serving as a lay leader in the United Methodist Church. “This job began to take up so much time that I didn’t feel like I was doing what I needed to at church, so I talked to the minister about the situation. He told me that God needs people at different places at different times in their lives, and it sounded like God needed me helping the veterans at this time.”
Carson took those words to heart, and this job helping veterans is now his mission. And he does whatever it takes to accomplish this mission. If a veteran needs a ride to the doctor, he takes him. If they are shut in or in the hospital, he goes to visit. If they need paperwork sent in, he gets that paperwork submitted — no matter the day of the week.
“It’s all part of the job,” said Carson. “If your job is helping veterans, you need to help veterans. A lot of times, I feel like the most important part of my job is just listening to them. My job is putting the veteran first.”
Most of Carson’s volunteer work is also tied to veterans. He is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6362 in Jasper where he serves as quartermaster. He’s a member of the American Legion in Dunlap and Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard. He also spearheaded the first Veterans Day parade in Jasper in 2013.
He also is very involved in making sure our youth understand and appreciate the sacrifices our veterans have made for their freedom. Working with the local school system, he promotes and administers the VFW-sponsored Voice of Democracy public speaking contest for high school students and the Patriotic Pin writing contest for middle school students. He and his daughter, Melinda, a VFW Auxiliary member, have even started a patriotic coloring contest for the elementary school students in honor of Carson’s late wife, Linda. They also work with art teachers before Veterans Day, Christmas and Valentine’s Day to have the children make cards for veterans who are shut in or in nursing homes or hospitals.
“That is some of the most rewarding work I do,” Carson said. “Those cards mean so much to those men and women — hearing that their service is appreciated by the next generation.”
SVEC is proud to honor John Carson, a veteran who always puts others first.