Making the best of isolation: Colorado WWII vet builds model planes, sends letter to the President to receive Purple Heart

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PUEBLO, Colo. — While in isolation during the pandemic, a World War II veteran from Colorado used his time alone at home to master a hobby, making model aircrafts.

Ken Carter, 93, made the best of isolation. He can still make delicate works of art despite having macular degeneration in one of his eyes. It started as a hobby with his late wife, Verna, they would travel across the country selling ceramics. Carter would do the fine details while his wife painted the larger pieces. Now making model airplanes have taken off during the pandemic.

“Of course when the virus hit, I just decided well I might as well just make a bunch of them and I did,” Carter said.

He’s made over 75 models. He’s made ships, which take longer, planes, and helicopters. It’s something he likes to do to keep busy.

“If you have arthritis you gotta keep your hands working, and if you don’t have arthritis you gotta keep your brains working, just something to do,” Carter explained.

Carter’s daughter helped hang most of the airplanes around his apartment for display. He has given a few away to those that also really enjoy them. He adds that making models keeps your mind busy too.

“You don’t think about anything but that and that’s what I like about it,” Carter said.

He likes to listen to 40s or 50s music when he is concentrated on creating the models and boy does he keep a close eye on the details. The first plane that he made in isolation was the most important one, the Enola Gay, the one that dropped the atomic bomb and he says saved his life. Carter joined the Navy during World War II at the age of 17 even though he gets really seasick.

“Before we even left the dock, I was seasick,” Carter laughed. “Well, when you come off of the farm and I never saw a big puddle of water, a cow pound was the biggest I’d ever seen and when I saw the ocean I woke up.”

Now, he’s fighting a different battle. He has sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to finally receive his purple heart.

“It’s a matter of sticking with it, I guess,” Carter said. “It’s been since 1945, trying to get a purple heart.”

Carter was on the second wave during the invasion of Japan. After the war was over a few members of his company went back into the jungle to find any left over enemy soldiers and they did.

“This Japanese jumped up behind us near a downed tree and got me in the stomach,” Carter explained. “It was just a cut so thank goodness cause if it was straight in I might not be here.”

Carter continue to search for more despite his injury. He said his commanding officer didn’t want to do the paperwork so that’s why he never received the purple heart.

“He said, you are a volunteer and you don’t deserve one anyway but he’s the one that said I ought to volunteer for the job,” Carter recalled. “I was 17, I didn’t know nothing. I didn’t follow through on it.”

He wishes the letters he’s sent, along with his very own book that includes his life story will persuade the Commander and Chief to give the award to him after all of these years. An award that he wants to pass off to his daughter.

“She’s heard that story so many times, that poor things so I’d love to be able to present her with the purple heart.”

Besides surviving WWII, he also created the first search and rescue in Pueblo in 1965, he’s wrote a book, and learned how to fly a plane.

If you would like to read more on Carter’s story you can call Nick, a friend, at 719-778-1956 to purchase his book.

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