Carl Arthur Heiman is 91 and our favorite Marine is still going strong. A Past- Commander, Carl is involved in many Post activities, and is personally in charge of our cemetery Memorial Programs on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Through several years, Carl was the man who kept the Post in order. He was everything from Commander to Janitor. He was proud to spend countless hours working on keeping Post 522 running right and looking good. Just what you would expect from a tough old Marine.
Born in Appleton in 1929, Carl’s family had 3 boys and 2 girls. One brother died as an infant. Carl says his other brother was his father’s favorite until Carl joined the Marines. Then things changed and he suddenly became “The most precious one in the old man’s eyes”.
Sadly, Carl lost his wife, a little over 7 years ago. They were married for 59 years and he misses her every day. Carl and Rita had 4 children; Daughters are Debbie, Cindy, and Samantha (Carl tells us that they were all named after bands or singers in bands). Then along came son Patrick. “Then (Carl) slammed the window and I said that’s enough. It was getting too expensive.” He cannot remember their exact ages, but says all his kids are in their 50’s.
Today Carl lives on Skyline Drive in Richfield/Hubertus. He was born and grew up in the city of Appleton where he did a lot of hunting and fishing. He attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School. “School wasn’t bad, some of those nuns were not nice, I always had some sore knuckles. Didn’t matter that it was never my fault, there is no argument.” After High School, Carl developed his trade in the printing business. He learned to work offset presses at Earl Litho Printing Company. But, his real desire was to join the service.
In September 1951 he tried enlisting several times “but they turned me down. I went down to Milwaukee twice and the Navy doctors told me you’re never going to be in the service. I had already talked to the Air corps and the Marines recruiters and they both had me all set to go, passed every test and everything but I was just placed on their waiting lists. You know, I thought I wasn’t going to get in the Marines.” But, then a letter showed up at his house. His sister said “you’re going into the Army”. She had opened his mail and looked at his papers. “Right away I call the Air Corps recruiter and asked him what I should do. And he says ‘Oh crap, since you opened it I can’t do nothing for you. Otherwise I could have you on a plane for Lackland Air Force Base tonight.’
So I said well, I guess I’m stuck with the Army”.
At his induction into the Army, he was given a surprise. The recruiter was about to stamp his papers, but asked him if he wanted Army or Marines. Carl said he wanted the Marine Corps, the recruiter stamped his papers “Marines”, called him crazy, and the rest is military history.
Carl served went to boot camp in San Diego. Sixteen easy weeks. He would have preferred Paris Island. He was assigned to be a Plate/Layout Man and Basic Infantryman. He was then stationed (he says he was stuck) in a Headquarters Company and never left California (except for a very short stint in Seattle). He ran mimeographs and all the printing equipment they had. Carl had his own private little printing sector. He mailed warnings to Marine Corps Reservists telling them “if they didn’t keep the record straight that they would be sent back to active duty”.
Sgt Carl served his 2 years active, then 6 years of reserve. They tried to bribe him to re-up by offering the Staff Sgt Rocker, but Carl didn’t give in. He knew he liked Rita a whole lot more than he liked the Marines, and she made it clear she would not be a military wife.
His best memories of military service were the firing range and having the liberty to come and go as he pleased (guys in Headquarters companies have it made). He says his military service made him stand up for what he wanted. Made him more self-reliant. “You don’t take any BS; stand up for what you believe in”.
Back home in 1953, he got acquainted with his girlfriend and returned to Earl Litho Company. Got married in 1954. He stayed in printing but left Earl Litho for a job in West Bend for higher pay. Eventually he landed in Milwaukee at WA Krueger Printing Company and stayed there about 35 years until retirement in 1989.
The American Legion and Post 522 have been lucky enough to have Carl for the past 23 years. Gib Schmitt had him in his sites for two or three years. Carl finally said “oh hell with it, and I joined up”.
So, what does Carl know now that he wishes he knew when he was younger?
“Not too much. Probably should have saved a little more money, been a little more frugal than I was, and maybe take a little better care of my health”.
If a young person asked him “what’s important tor living a good life” Carl would you tell him “If you want to be called a man, just a few things you have to do. First you have to get an education. Do some service time. Get married. Raise a family, I think they are the most important things”.
Does he have a “bucket list”? No, whatever Carl does he does for today.
He told us that he doesn’t travel much. He enjoyed driving to other posts around Wisconsin while he was Post Commander. He did quite a bit of driving around during those years. Today its mostly going to Marine Corps meetings, Post 522 meetings, or just driving around.
Carl recalled that the world event that made the biggest impression on him clearly was 911. “I couldn’t believe that somebody would actually do that to our country. When I first heard the news I told my wife, if I get called I’m ready and I’m going. I wouldn’t have been surprised to get a call-up notice”.
Carl thinks that the most important lesson learned in life is to live a clean straight life, don’t get into a lot of trouble. Respect other people and their property. He hopes that people who know him recognize that he has always tried to live a decent life, to do things as well as possible. His greatest influences in life were his older brother, whom he idolized, and his mother who always tried her best to keep him in line.
Carl told us that the sources of his greatest pride in his life are being married to Rita, raising his family, and being a Marine (a Marine who was never busted for anything).
Post 522 recognizes the high level of dedication Carl has shown us through the years. We remain in debt to him for his years of faithful membership, for all he has done in coordinating the Color Guard as well as so many other projects, and for all he has given to us as Post Commander for more than 6 years. Post 522 will never forget what he has done and what he continues to do. We know him as “Commander Carl”; a title of great respect. He continues to be our symbol of both Military and American Legion pride.
(Interviewed by Mark Rostagno and Joe Leone edited by Mike Grimm)