Melvin Carter didn't have many opportunities given to him after graduating from William Penn Senior High School. Though he ran track, played football and was the president of his class, his family was unable to afford to give him a college education.  

Carter decided to create his own opportunities — and in 1985, he joined the Marines. 

Thirty-four years later, on Friday, Aug. 9, Carter was promoted to a one-star brigadier general of the Marines, serving as the Marines Corps director of intelligence. 

Carter, now living in Arlington, Virginia, said he serves with only roughly six other generals who are also African American, making him exceedingly honored to serve this important role.

"I'm incredibly proud, honored and really overwhelmed," said Carter, 54. "I realize that now I have a responsibility that now I pass on to the next generation of Marines." 

As the director of intelligence for the Marines, Carter's responsibilities include being the commandant's principal intelligence staff officer and the functional manager for intelligence and cryptologic activities.

Additionally, the intelligence department as a whole is primarily in charge of policy, plans, programming, budgets and staff supervision.

Every year, the Marine Corps selects eight to 10 individuals for promotion to general. 

To have this opportunity, Carter said it felt as if he was "walking with giants."

Carter's pinning ceremony took place at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, near Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Though he initially had ambitions of studying engineering, Carter said joining the Marines was the best decision he could make. 

"It absolutely exceeded my expectations," he said. "Joining the corps challenged me in every part of my career."

Growing up in York City, Carter said he didn't know much outside of York. 

After joining the Marines, Carter graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a bachelor's degree in banking and finance. He also spent time studying at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Harvard Business School.

Prior to his current assignment, Carter served as the director of intelligence for the Joint Special Operation Command.

He has also served several other roles, including the intelligence officer/platoon commander for Marine Corps Special Operation Command.

For Carter's family, also from York, they have a lot of pride for his military achievements. 

"Our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents instilled duty and responsibility," said Carter's cousin, Samantha Dorm. "I believe that (Carter) truly personifies what they worked so hard to accomplish for us."

Russell Dorm, Carter's uncle, said his nephew is a role model for the younger members of the family.

The same weekend Carter was promoted, his cousin Alei'a Beard-Dorm graduated from the Marine Corps Officer School. 

Samantha Dorm called it an "extra special" weekend for the family.

"In the back of my mind I just feel like he deserves it, he's been the type of person his whole life. He's worked hard his whole life to qualify for that position," Russell Dorm said. "It's well-deserved, he's done all the right things his whole life."

— Reach Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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