Anthony Owens remembers that knock at the door 50 years ago when U.S. Marines delivered the news that his brother Gregory Carter had been killed in Vietnam.
“My mama just dropped her head and after they buried him there was no more memory, until today,” he said at a ceremony to mark Gregory Carter’s grave with a brass and granite headstone at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s like he woke up to the world again,” Owens said. “His life is meaningful. It means something.”
An estimated 200 people attended the ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday in the cemetery at 3201 N.W. 19th St. The turnout caught him a little off guard.
“No I did not [expect this many people],” Owens said. “It raised our spirits, big time.”
Carter, a Dillard High School student, was drafted into the Marines at 19 and was sent to Vietnam on the Fourth of July. He had a young son by then, and a daughter on the way, but they would never know him.
Jeffrey Owens, 54, remembers his brother, but barely.
“I was only 4 when this happened but I remember the funeral,” he said. “That’s my earliest memory of my life.”
Private First Class Gregory Carter was killed in action Oct. 12, 1969. He laid in an unmarked grave until the Vietnam Veterans of America made the discovery while tracking down photographs of Vietnam veterans to place on the black granite Wall of Faces in Washington, D.C.
The organization helped set things right by working with the city of Fort Lauderdale and others to get the grave marker. They also got his picture from a baseball team photograph in a Dillard High School yearbook.
He was one of nine boys and six girls born to Annie Mae Carter Owens. Anthony Owens indicated that might explain his resilience.
“He got shot in the shoulder,” he said. “Since it was the war they patched him up and in two weeks he was back on the front lines.”
Gregory Carter rests with his mother, grandparents, three siblings and other relatives in the same cemetery, only now everyone will know exactly where.
“If you die you’re just lost until somebody thinks about you again,” said Anthony Owens. “So his spirit is probably all around us right now. It’s a good thing. He’s doing good.”