Airman devotes life to service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Haux
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Long before he could fit into combat boots, or even speak English, Peter Karpawitz-Godt was becoming familiar with military life.

Born in the most northern town in Germany, Karpawitz-Godt was raised the son of a German police officer in the midst of WWII.

After moving to Kassel, a major German city, Karpawitz-Godt said it was natural for them to get bombed quite a bit.

"I was 7 years old when a 250-pound bomb landed in our backyard," explained Karpawitz-Godt. "It didn't explode; otherwise I wouldn't be here right now. My dad unscrewed the fuse later on and cut it out."

After WWII Karpawitz-Godt's father received letters from old friends who lived in the United States asking if one of his sons would like to come to America.

"I was kind of adventurous so I said, 'I'll go,'" said Karpawitz-Godt. "I went to Youngstown, Ohio in 1955 because that's where [my father's] friends lived."

Although he went to America to go to school, Karpawitz-Godt had to register for the draft at the time, even though he wasn't a citizen, getting drafted was still a possibility.

"One day I got a card that said, 'Greetings from the Army,'" said Karpawitz-Godt. "I thought, 'I don't know anybody in the Army. Who would write me a letter from the Army?' My friend informed me that I was drafted."

Instead of waiting for the draft, Karpawitz-Godt decided to go visit the Air Force recruiting office after the Korean War armistice was signed.

It was in March of 1956, at age 27, when he became an Airman in the U.S. Air Force.
After training to be a supply Airman, he was stationed with the 48th Fighter Bomber Wing in France. It was there he met his future wife, something that would have never been possible without the military.

"At first, she didn't like me at all because I was a German guy who was fighting against them," said Karpawitz-Godt. "Later on, she ended up becoming my wife; we are still married to this day and celebrated our 50th anniversary a couple years ago."

Karpawitz-Godt and his wife moved around while in the Air Force and eventually ended in California where he was a munitions maintenance Airman.

"I was responsible for the munitions records during the Cuban [Missile] Crisis and wasn't allowed to leave the base during that time," Karpawitz-Godt remembered. "We slept on field cots next to the safe in case we had to open it in a split second. Once the Cuban [Missile] Crisis was over, we were released and I got orders for Ramstein Air Base."

While serving in his home country, he found out it was his turn to go to war. Karpawitz-Godt was sent in support in the Vietnam War, where he was responsible for ensuring all aircraft in the Southeast Asia theater were equipped with all necessary supplies.

After serving in Vietnam, Karpawitz-Godt was transferred back to Ramstein in 1974 as the Defense Logistics Agency's chief of Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office.

He was transferred to several different squadrons and offices during his time at Ramstein until March 31, 1984, when he retired on the flightline. Since then, the still-active older gentleman with snow-white hair continues to work for the Air Force as a clothing issue management clerk because of he loves to meet new people through the military.

"The camaraderie, sticking together and being a team is huge. Nothing is more important than sticking together," said Karpawitz-Godt. "That's why I am still around the military; I enjoy meeting these young people, it keeps me young."

Being in and around the military for more than 50 years, achieving two Bronze Stars, a U.S. citizenship and much more, the passionate Vietnam Veteran enjoys mentoring today's Airmen.

"Be patient because things take time and there might not be openings for what you want, but eventually there will be," urged Karpawitz-Godt. "If you are persistent enough and continue on that path, don't lose focus on what you want to do and what you want to be. That is most important."

As for Karpawitz-Godt's future, he wants to move to California and stay home to take care of his wife next year. He will however, still be in touch with his military family because he plans to move to the Enlisted Village.