It was love at first sight when Charlotte Cruppenink first met her future husband Nick.
The two were in the United States Marine Corps. Charlotte was fresh out of basic training and Nick had several years of service under his belt. A week after stumbling upon each other at a club one night near Parris Island, they got married.
Charlotte, a North Carolina native and now Moncks Corner councilmember, initially entered the armed forces because she “was at wits end.” Nonetheless, after wedding her more seasoned husband, he encouraged her to put forth her best effort.
“We would say to each other every day ‘Make it count,’” Charlotte said. “He said he believed as a Marine Corps recruiter you could sell anything you believed in. He believed in his Corps. As long as he made every day count that would make his career a success.”
Nick eventually established a 30-year military career that included combat in six wars before retiring to serve for the Moncks Corner Police Department. Charlotte took her husband’s advice to heart and got involved in military recruitment. As the Vietnam War curtailed near 1975, Charlotte’s military occupational specialty involved radio broadcasts and photojournalism.
She attended a broadcasting school in Indianapolis, then Charlotte was assigned to Parris Island where she broadcast recruitment videos used to convince new service members from across the nation. She interviewed troops who talked about their experience in the service.
“It was a motivational thing to get people to join,” she said.
Charlotte also worked with the Armed Forces Network, the organization's broadcasting service, filming remote broadcasts that played for Vietnam War troops abroad to keep them abreast with homeland news. Working in a public affairs role, Charlotte also worked guest spots on local television stations in Beaufort to keep viewers updated with armed forces information.
“It was a great job,” she said. “[Reporters] were not embedded with the troops during those years. They would rely on TV shows and guest spots and they would bring someone in such as myself to come in and discuss what’s going on, how things are looking (overseas), how are the troops doing and how they are planning for the end of this war.”
“It was a unique career. It was different. I was very privileged.”
While Cruppenink never placed boots on the ground, her role was pivotal in boosting morale and inspiring soldiers to serve their country.
“It was a good way to recruit and keeping people informed,” she said. “I didn’t see war. I didn’t have to experience the trauma that the real Vietnam veterans experienced. I am a Vietnam veteran, but I’m not truly a Vietnam veteran. I provided support to them.”
Cruppenink finished about four years of service before she entered the civilian workforce. She obtained cosmetology training in Beaufort and also honed her journalism skills at television stations and newspapers across the East Coast.
Now the mother of one son, she juggled life as a military wife. She estimates her family moved every three years.
She found her calling in supporting a group of military wives. She knew what it's like to serve as well as the loneliness of being separated from a loved one in the service. She encouraged the wives to keep their minds occupied and write letters to their husbands.
“I was able to talk to the wives from the aspect of ‘this is what he’s feeling right now,’” she said. “They’re going to miss them no matter what.”
The Cruppeninks eventually set their sights on Moncks Corner. They loved the hometown feel of Main Street parades and watching fireworks from the football field while slicing watermelons.
Charlotte worked in attorney offices before she was persuaded to enter public service. In her first two races for a town council seat, she failed by just a few votes. She clinched her third bid in 2014. She was elected to a second term in 2018. In her years on the council, Cruppenink has advocated for proper town planning and development.
Currently, she works as a constable with Berkeley County. She says all of her life’s work is summed up as “service.”
“Through school, high school, I was always serving in some capacity,” Cruppenink said. “Get in the military, I wanted more...I just always wanted to serve. That’s how I ended up in politics. My desire to serve.”