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Dead 46 years, Carlton Hood lives on in family’s memories

By Kay S. Pedrotti Carlton Harvey Hood, nicknamed ‘Bubba’ and beloved by everyone who knew him, gave his life for his country and will be among those honored with another memorial on the Gordon State College campus. Lance Corporal Hood was killed at age 19 while serving in the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. He had been in the military less than two years and in the southeast Asian conflict for just nine months when he was struck down by an explosive device while walking point on patrol in Quang Nam province. He died May 27, 1968, of his wounds, according to his brother, local Lamar County Sheriff’s Office deputy Marion Hood. Marion and his sister Donna Hood Abbott shared memories, photos, mementoes and letters with The Herald Gazette recently. Donna said, ‘Carlton really believed in what he was doing, believed in helping the South Vietnamese people fight for their freedom.’ Marion confirmed, ‘We don’t want anyone to forget what our brother and their brothers, fathers and sons did for them. He’ll live in our memories as long as we can share his story.’ Friends and alumni of Gordon State, formerly Gordon Military, are constructing a memorial ‘to honor Carlton and others who attended or taught at Gordon,’ said a posting by Rhonda Toon on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation Wall of Faces site. Toon, vice president of advancement at the college, also said she has personal memories of Carlton as she was and is a good friend of Donna: ‘I’ll always remember an afternoon when he lugged us around on his back, playing with us. I remember thinking how fortunate Donna was to have such a big brother.’ Donna echoed that sentiment throughout the interview. She said he was ‘a special kind of person who lived more in his 19 years than most people do.’ Carlton made pets of wild animals, like a fox and an owl, had two or three kinds of jobs including welding before he went into the Marines and liked to wear all kinds of different hats ‘“ derby, Dutch boy, London deerstalker (now known as the Sherlock Holmes hat). He also was known for his sense of humor. ’There wasn’t a horse he couldn’t ride,’ she added. ‘He could just jump on with no saddle or anything and be perfectly at home.’ He also was popular with girls; occasionally the surviving siblings still hear from some of the ones he dated, Marion said. Carlton’s brother added he was wounded at least one other time, maybe two, and was to have been sent home but somehow wound up back in combat. ’We were getting ready to go to Hawaii when he was killed,’ Donna said, ‘to be with him when he got his R&R leave.’ There are several letters from him to his parents, the late Jesse and Bertha Hood, reflecting his love for his ‘little family’ and his excitement about seeing them. In one letter written May 13, 1968, two weeks before he died, Carlton says, ‘Hope this letter finds my family well and happy ‘˜cause that’s the way I want my family to stay always. ‘˜Cause life always has a better outlook when there’s a smile behind it if you know what I’m talking about and I think my family does. Moma, I’m doing just fine.’ Later in the letter he talks about being on the list for promotion from Private First Class to Lance Corporal. He says he had been told by the platoon sergeant he would be put on the list because he was serving as ‘first team leader’ as a PFC and other team leaders were Lance Corporals. He was awarded the LCPL rank posthumously. ’So I’ve got a lot of responsibility now so we have to pray a little bit harder that I can keep this responsibility and that I can do my job the best I can …’cause it’s important to me,’ he wrote. Carlton was trained as a rifleman positioned with an M79 grenade launcher, Marion said. It was not unusual for him to be the lead man on a patrol but he seldom told his family how harrowing his experiences had been. Donna thinks he did write once to his mother about the Hue City battle and how scared he was not knowing what was around the next building. Carlton’s funeral was held at Calvary Baptist Church and he is buried in Lamar Memory Gardens. He is named on the local memorial with the other 10 local servicemen who died in Vietnam. The dedication for the new memorial at GSC is set for April 2015. Donna said, ‘My mother would sit and watch the news night after night, the battles and men falling down and being carried out. I don’t know how she could do that. She swears she saw Carlton fall but that wasn’t likely. When we were notified of his death she had the escort bring his body to the house first so he could come home one more time. ‘˜I have to have him home one last time,’ she told us.’ Carlton wrote, ‘Hope this letter finds my family well and happy ‘˜cause that’s the way I want my family to stay always. ‘˜Cause life always has a better outlook when there’s a smile behind it if you know what I’m talking about and I think my family does.

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