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Carl Diekman, a decorated veteran who lives in Canyon Country, reflects on 'real heroes'

Community: Decorated Canyon Country veteran says the real heroes are still back on Iwo Jima

Posted: May 29, 2010 12:35 a.m.
Updated: May 29, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Carl Diekman, of Canyon Country, holds the medals and ribbons he earned during his service in two separate wars. The decorated veteran was one of 110,000 Marines who invaded Iwo Jima in the closing months of World War II. Diekman also served in the Korean War and helped train Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Every year as Trevor Diekman’s birthday approaches, he’s forced to wonder what was going through his father’s mind in the days leading up to Feb. 19, 1945.

That was the day Diekman’s father, Carl Diekman, along with the U.S. Marines Fifth Division, invaded Iwo Jima.

Trevor Diekman was born exactly 21 years later on Feb. 19, 1966.

“On the 16th (of February), I start thinking what was going through my pop’s mind,” Trevor Diekman said. “He was probably going nuts in the stomach.”

Much of Trevor’s questions are left to the imagination. Carl Diekman, now 88, is a proud but reserved veteran. Most recollections of the bloody World War II battle have remained hidden behind the aged eyes of the humble man who stands 6 feet 3 inches tall.

“The stuff he experienced, he had to bury it in the back of his head,” Trevor Diekman said.

The elder Diekman, a retired staff sergeant, was one of 110,000 Marines on one of 880 vessels sent to Iwo Jima in the closing months of the war. More than 6,800 servicemen in the Allied Forces died in action there.

“The real heroes are still out there in Iwo Jima,” said Carl Diekman, sitting on a swing bench outside his Canyon Country mobile home.

He sat next to a set of framed medals issued from the U.S. government, including a Veteran World War II medal, an Asian Pacific Campaign medal, a Good Conduct Marine Corps medal with the Fifth Division, a National Defense medal, a Navy Occupation Service medal and a Naval Commendation, Staff Sergeant 5th Division U.S. Marine Corps.

But he does not see himself as a hero, he said.

“I just went in early, got the job done and got out,” he said.

After he was discharged in 1946, the professional baker — who is more apt to discuss his time spent baking in the service than his battle experiences — started a family with his wife and was then called back into service in 1950.

He served during the Korean War in 1950 and 1951, training Marines throughout that time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

His said his experience at Iwo Jima did not necessarily impact his training of Marines at Camp Lejeune. Korea was a different battlefield, he said.

“At Iwo Jima, you didn’t know where your enemy was at,” he said. “It was all underground — they’d pop up, shoot you and you didn’t know where it was coming from.”

The vet spends much of his time now with his 10-plus grandkids or carving wooden figurines, some as simple as a walking stick or duck and others — visual remnants of his time in the service.

A wooden depiction of a dirt grave covered with stone sits on a table inside Carl Diekman’s home. A rifle topped with a military helmet sticks straight up from the grave. On the front, he had engraved: “And when he gets to heaven to Saint Peter he will tell one more Marine reporting sir, I’ve served my time in hell.”

Trevor Diekman, of Saugus, has accompanied his father to 26 consecutive Iwo Jima reunions at Camp Pendleton. He said while growing up he always heard his dad speak of the Marine Corps, but Carl Diekman keeps his battle experiences to himself.

“Nobody knows what goes on inside his head or what he’s experienced,” Trevor Diekman said. “Just like the quote said — ‘done my time in hell’ — and that man’s done it.”

Trevor Diekman and his sisters were angry and disappointed in April 2008 when their father received a letter informing him that he was being cut off from his monthly veterans check and that he had to pay nearly $4,000 back to the U.S. government.

The Department of Veteran Affairs recanted its demand and paid him the money he was owed, following a flurry of support for the veteran from Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, along with phone calls and letters from his family, the community, servicemen and veterans across the country.

Carl Diekman said he has still yet to meet an Agua Dulce woman who sent him two $20 checks after she heard about the letter. Perhaps one day they will meet for dinner, he said.

He’s done his time in Memorial Day parades and services, he said. On Monday, he will spend much of his day with his son at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 6885 on Sierra Highway.

Trevor Diekman still remembers a time in his childhood when his father experienced night terrors. He believes his father’s suppression of his war experiences helps Carl Diekman be the compassionate and humble patriarchal figure he is.

“Growing up with him, he was so gentle,” Trevor Diekman said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better father. God gave me a gift.”



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