Abita Springs resident is back to firefighting after stint in Afghanistan
Matt Carter had finished more than eight years of service in the Marine Corps in 2009 and was ready to settle down in Abita Springs. Enjoying a life filled with public service, he turned his attention to becoming a firefighter. Then the military came calling once again.
With two weeks remaining before he was to finish a three-month training course with the 12th Fire District of St. Tammany Parish, Carter received the news he would be shipped off with his Army Reserve unit to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan for 10 months to work as a cargo specialist. He left in the summer of 2010, three days after his training ended with the Fire Department.
“When the class ends, everyone gets their gear and started working that weekend,” he said. “I didn’t get the gear, and I didn’t get to even work one shift. I just went away.”
Carter is home again — for good, he hopes — and has finally started that delayed career with the Covington-area Fire Department. While he is just settling in with his new colleagues, he already got to know many of them while he was thousands of miles away, via modern technology. These new-found friends provided much inspiration for the veteran who has spent nearly all of his adult life serving the military.
While on duty overseas, Carter was honored when the Fire Department sent him a 12th District flag, which on at least four occasions flew underneath Old Glory at Bagram. As most servicemen do, he kept in touch via computer with those at home, although “nothing in America could function if they had to deal with the extremely slow Internet speeds they have over there.”
And it turned out, Carter had nothing to worry about when he figured his fellow firefighters would be upset because he’d be leaving them just as the new job was supposed to begin.
“That thought never crossed our minds,” said 12th Fire District Chief Dominick Bourgeois. “We hired him for a lifetime. How do you tell someone ‘no’ who is going to fight for our freedom? All you can do is support him. He’s out there serving our country, and all we cared about was that he came home safely.”
Carter enlisted in the Reserves in 2009, two weeks after leaving the Marines, because he needed more service so that he could ensure that his daughter’s college tuition would be paid for via the GI Bill. After a first tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2004 and being turned down three other times to voluntarily go, Carter, now 28, said he thought he was safe from another overseas tour, although he “always knew it was a possibility.”
When he returned to Abita Springs in March, he went to work with the 12th District the very next day. He was excited about leaving his 12-hour a day, six-day-per-week job in the Army to return to civilian life, see his family and finally begin his job as a firefighter.
“The only thing I could think of while I was over there was that I couldn’t wait to get back,” Carter said. “I spent a lot of time on Facebook and kept up with Chief Bourgeois and a few other guys. And as soon as I got home, I wanted to get right back to work. It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things.”