FORT SILL, Oklahoma (March 4, 2021) -- Anna Carter, 13, knew she wanted to be an entertainer.
“She loved to dance, and she was always putting on little performances at the house,” said her father, Marine Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joshua Carter. “She was very outgoing and wanted to make people smile.”
When Anna wasn’t feeling well after attending a dance class on a Tuesday, Joshua thought it was a childhood illness. She had nausea, but no fever, and said she was feeling tired.
She got a little worse Wednesday, but said she was feeling better on Thursday.
By Friday, July 10, 2020, when she was too weak to walk, her father knew something was seriously wrong. Her mother Amber took her to the Comanche County Memorial Hospital emergency room while Joshua stayed at home with their other four children.
In the ER, Anna’s pulse got progressively weaker, and her heart stopped beating. She could not be revived.
Within three hours of admittance Anna had died, said Joshua. Tests later revealed that Anna, an eighth-grader at Cache Public Schools, had died from COVID-19.
Chief Carter, Fort Sill Marine Artillery Detachment assistant operations officer, shared his story with staff at the 434th Field Artillery Brigade a couple of weeks ago.
His message was to get the COVID vaccination and to follow the pandemic protective measures.
Even if a service member doesn’t contract COVID they can still be taken out of the fight if one of their family members gets it because that will influence their ability to perform their job, Joshua said. “Don’t be so prideful that you think you’re tougher than this disease.”
Amber added: “We miss everything about Anna and hope that telling our story helps prevent this from happening to anyone else’s child or loved one. Sometimes the typical signs are not signs at all. If they feel something is not right in the least — go get tested.”
Anna had not displayed any of the known COVID symptoms.
The Carter family was subsequently tested for COVID and they were all positive, Joshua said. And, contact tracing could not determine how any of them had contracted the disease.
The Carters were living in Buffalo Soldiers Acres housing here at the time, and they were following all the COVID guidelines set forth in the Commanding General’s Order No. 1.
They were also following the restrictions set in place by the city of Lawton.
They wore face masks, practiced physically distancing, and used hand sanitizer, Carter said. “We did everything right beginning in March, we followed it to a ‘T,’ yet ultimately every one of us contracted it.”
Anna had been diagnosed with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease, at the age of 10, said Amber.
She was taking hydroxychloroquine daily for at least a year and a half before COVID, she said. It was the drug that then-President Trump had touted as a miracle drug against COVID.
Joshua and Amber said their faith, and military support helped them deal with Anna’s death.
“Our local priest at Blessed Sacrament, and Fort Sill’s permanent Catholic deacon, retired Lt. Col. Robert Quinette, were at the hospital with us when she passed,” said Amber. “Chaplain (Capt.) Benjamin Letran, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, was a large supporter of our family’s grieving process, and held a memorial Mass in Anna’s honor at Grierson Hill
Chapel. Our military Catholic community, as well as our local parish have been an amazing support beam.”
Anna’s death is still a daily struggle for the family, Joshua said.
“The joy of life is still here. As a family we still laugh, but we cry more than we did in the past,” he said.
Joshua said he recently told his mother that: “Life for us will never be the same good, but it will be good all the same.”
“Anna was an amazing kid,” said Amber, “one that any parent would’ve been lucky to call their own. But as luck would have it, she was ours and our lives were made exponentially better because she was in it.”
Anna is buried at the Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin. “My wife and I have our plots set aside next to her,” Joshua said.
Her death changed Joshua’s plans with the Marine Corps. He was on permanent change of station permissive orders and was scheduled to leave here July 15, for a one-year unaccompanied tour in Okinawa with the 12th Marine Regiment. After that Joshua and his family would have been transferred to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, he said. And, after retiring from the Marine Corps, the family was looking to move to Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Instead they will stay in Lawton after Joshua retires from the MARDET next summer to be near Anna.