This is the final in a series of feature stories on West Side veterans.
NEWMAN - The military was not only an opportunity to serve but a path to a career for one local man.
That path led Newman resident Harold Canter into the Navy and to Korea in the early 1950s, shortly after he graduated from high school in Louisiana.
During his four years in the Navy, Canter served aboard the USS Bremerton, a heavy cruiser which deployed to Korea three times during his four years in the service.
A high school coach was instrumental in steering Canter to the Navy, he related.
“He knew that I wanted to go to college and be a teacher,” said Canter, who is a retired Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District educator. “The only way I was going to do that was through the military. I was going to go into the Marines with my buddies, but he talked to me and told me that I would get four years of college by going to the Navy.”
And so the Navy it was.
Canter completed his basic training in San Diego, and then was assigned to the Bremerton.
While off the coast of Korea, Canter said, the cruiser’s guns were continuously firing.
“We shelled enemy positions 24 hours a day. We would just go back and forth off the coast,” said Canter, who was assigned to a five-inch gun.
“I was a spotter and would fire the rounds,” he explained. “Each of us had a certain job to do.”
Occasionally the ship would come under enemy fire, Canter added, always from ground forces rather than from the air.
“We came under fire a few times, and we got hit a couple of times,” he told Mattos Newspapers. “Most of the time it was us shooting at them.”
The cruiser typically operated a quarter- to half-mile off the shoreline, Canter estimated, and on occasion would venture into a port.
One such visit was to deliver supplies to soldiers behind enemy lines, he related.
“We weren’t in there 15 minutes and we had to get out,” Canter said, explaining that the troops on the ground did not want the presence of the ship to give away their location.
The crew members on the ship, Canter added, developed close bonds of friendship.
“We got to be buddies. We were like brothers,” he said.
After three tours to Korea, Canter finished out his military service in Texas.
He did go on to get his college education at Chico State University, and embarked on a long teaching career, primarily in the Newman-Crows Landing district.
Canter is a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, which he said provides a variety of resources and services to veterans - and brings together those who share the common bonds of military service.
“It means a lot to be a veteran,” he remarked.
A flag flies continually over his home on the outskirts of Newman, reflecting patriotism that Canter said has always been part of his life.
His years in the military instilled a deeper understanding of the service and sacrifices inherent in defending the nation’s freedom.
“The service showed me some things that made me a little more patriotic,” he concluded.