By Jacob Jimmerson
Some veterans may encourage others to join the military, Carl Harker Jr. says otherwise. Harker said, “Don’t join the military. You can’t beat the experience, but you can’t put your life in harm’s way. They send you where they want you, and it puts too many young men’s lives in danger.”
Harker was drafted in 1968. He asked if he could finish school. The military agreed, but he had to enlist in the military for four years rather than just spend his two years in it. This was a tough decision for Harker, but he seems to be content with his final decision.
Harker was in the Navy for four years. He had boot camp in San Diego and then two years of shore duty at Mare Island. He then went aboard an aircraft carrier for another year. He ended his duty as a petty officer in the Navy. This is the same as a corporal.
Harker could recall his first few days in the service like it was yesterday. He pulled up in a bus and heard a bunch of screaming from several guys. He then got off of the bus and the screaming was not far away any more, but instead right in his face and he could feel the spit hitting his face. Harker said, “They had all of these sailors lined up with Marines just beating on them and it was a living hell from there. It got easier later on into boot camp, but it was very strict and just a living hell. It turns boys into men.”
Harker has many fond memories, “Shore duty and getting out of boot camp were the best memories of my time. I really loved my time at Mare lsland, and I had an Aunt who lived there and would cook me some of the best food.”
Harker recalled other fond memories as he sat there, “l was in a liberty ship from World War II and we would call the ship ‘old leaky’. We also called our captain, ‘Captain Tuna’. We were on the ship one day and we saw some Russian planes over head and we figured we would flip them the bird as they flew over us!”
While Harker never saw combat, he still had a memory that was tough for him to talk about. Harker said, “We were outside f Vietnam and flying on a military aircraft. I was in the front, but in the back were a bunch of soldiers who had been shot and were screaming in pain.”
Harker has mixed feelings. He said, “Now, I am proud I was there. Then I didn’t like it and the men who fought in that war were not treated well after it. There are more opportunities for young men coming out of service now.”
While in the Navy, Harker earned National Service medal, the Good Conduct medal and the Vietnam Service medal.
Harker said, “l thought that since I was drafted I would just enlist and be committed to it instead. But you do not choose what you end up doing like they make you believe. But, it was a great experience and I got a lot of great training. I got some crazy orders during my stat. But again, you can’t beat the experience.”
Jacob Jimmerson is a sophomore majoring in communication. You may email him at