Capt. Carter (far right) poses beside
three of his men from Attack Company.
A stack of fan mail sits in his parents’ dining room largely untouched, not because he doesn’t appreciate it but because he hasn’t had time to go through it. Addressed simply to Captain Chris Carter in Watkinsville, Georgia, the letters give no more of an address than a child’s letter to Santa Claus at the North Pole. Yet the postman knows where to deliver them. The postman probably knows Chris, as does the whole town of Watkinsville, watching him grow up before their eyes. But then the war in Iraq began and Capt. Carter, an army Ranger, was thrust into the national spotlight after rescuing an injured Iraqi woman from a bridge under heavy gunfire while commanding Attack Company, or A Company of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. All of a sudden, this 31-year-old University of Georgia fan with a Southern drawl who loves to hunt, fish and sing Hank Williams Jr. songs to keep his men alert became a hero.
It’s not a label he likes. In fact, he runs from it faster than he ran towards Baghdad with his 120-man company. Carter led his men on the front lines of what turned out to be the fastest, deepest attack by an invading army in military history.
But before the war began, before the first missile was dropped or the first shots were fired, Carter developed three PCP’s or “Pre-combat Prayers.” He prayed that his family would know where he was while in Iraq, that all of his men would make it home alive, and that he would have the opportunity to share his Christian faith with all of his men.
Mike, Chris and Shirley Carter
shortly after Chris’s return from Iraq.
Prayer runs deep in his family.
“Some nights I’d wake up seven, eight, nine times,” said Mike Carter of his son’s deployment. “Every time I woke up, I’d pray.”
His mother, Shirley, said that several days before her son rescued the elderly Iraqi woman, God was trying to tell her Chris would be involved in a rescue and to pray for protection.
“I prayed a lot,” she said, “but I never succumbed to fear because God said I could have either faith or fear.”
Carter had no inclination he would be involved in a rescue. His mission was to draw Iraqi forces south in Hindiyah, a town of 80,000 some 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, by taking a bridge and searching the police station. Once Attack Company rolled into town March 31, Iraqi fighters in civilian clothes opened fire while cars thought to be laden with explosives encircled the Bradley armoured vehicles.
Having been shot through the rear, the elderly Iraqi woman signaled Attack Company for help and then went limp. The woman later told an interpreter she was shot by an Iraqi.
“We thought she’d died,” recalls Carter. Then “she sat up and waved at uswe had to get her out of there.”
Half a world away, Shirley Carter was praying for her son.
Carter and a couple of soldiers moved onto the bridge, calling a medic for help. Iraqi gunfire intensified as medics came and placed the woman on a stretcher while Carter provided cover with his M16A4 rifle.
“I didn’t hear a single shot fired while I was on the bridge,” says Carter, believing his mother’s prayers were responsible. “God’s hand was protecting us.”
And an embedded Associated Press reporter and photographer were capturing the entire event. The next day, this young soldier made headlines the world over. From the Belfast Telegraph to the Manila Bulletin, Carter was a hero. The Army thought so too, awarding him the Silver Star. Yet Carter still shies away from the spotlight, calling the honor “a reflection of the job my soldiers did and not me personally.”
Chris endears himself to thousands of UGA fans
by unfurling the school flag on Fox News.
As for his first PCP, U.S. newspaper articles quoted Carter almost daily, enabling his family to track his whereabouts perhaps more so than any other soldier’s family in the war. On Feb. 17, CNN anchor Bill Hemmer interviewed Carter in the Kuwaiti desert on military maneuvers. On March 31, pictures of the daring bridge rescue ran in newspapers across the world while U.S. news stations headlined their broadcasts with Carter’s bravery. On April 8, Attack Company rode into central Baghdad en route to the New Presidential Palace. On April 10, a Fox news crew captured Carter and another soldier unfurling a University of Georgia flag outside one of Saddam’s palaces while two days later, Carter and his men marveled at the collective editions of military weapons found in a Baghdad home. On April 16, Attack Company uncovered Saddam’s “love shack” with shag carpet and paintings of topless women and serpents.
His second PCP was answered in early August. Carter had been redeployed on June 20 to serve a 3-year assignment as a liaison officer with the Georgia Army National Guard. On August 11, his men returned home to Fort Stewart, Georgia, the only casualty being a finger lost by Staff Sgt. William Gilliam of Hamburg, Ala.
Before leaving his men in Iraq, Carter called a voluntary formation prior to his change of command ceremony. Those that had guard duty got someone to cover for them so that his entire company could hear what their commanding officer had to say. Carter stood before the men he fought beside and shared his testimony about how a relationship with God had made a difference in his life.
“Every prayer request was answered 100 percent,” said Carter. “We shouldn’t put limits on prayer.”
Combat had its own lessons for Carter. “When there are trials in your life, you tend to turn to God more. You realize ‘I can’t do that on my own.’ Back in America we think ‘I don’t need God’ but He is so important to our life.”
“Despite (our) training and despite the actions of the men, there’s no way we could do what we did without God and His protection.”