Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Burial at Sea by LtCol George Goodson, USMC (Ret)

July 28th, 2009 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

*****UPDATE******* I just interviewed LtCol Goodson and the link is below, he is real, this story is real and he is my new Hero    ************UPDATE********

 I want to thank Nello Lucchesi for providing the link to this fantastic piece
Publisher: Marine Corps Association
Publication Name: Marine Corps Gazette
Subject: Military and naval science
ISSN: 0025-3170
Year: 2007

Burial at Sea” by LtCol George Goodson, USMC (Ret)

In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial.

War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic and was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.

Now 37 years have passed and, thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia , Laos , and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montangards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army. Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:
*The smell of Nuc Mam.
*The heat, dust, and humidity.
*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets.
*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass.
*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagers.
*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar.
*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby.
*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao.
*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina , Virginia , and Maryland .

It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam . Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk , rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car.

A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office. Appearance is important to career Marines. I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5’9″, I now weighed 128 pounds – 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.

I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant’s desk and said, “Sergeant Jolly, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket.”

Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, “How long were you there, Colonel?” I replied “18 months this time.” Jolly breathed, “Jesus, you must be a slow learner Colonel.” I smiled.

Jolly said, “Colonel, I’ll show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major. I said, “No, let’s just go straight to his office.”
Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, “Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He’s been in this G*dd@mn job two years. He’s packed pretty tight. I’m worried about him.” I nodded.

Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major’s office. “Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Office. The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, “Good to see you again, Colonel.” I responded, “Hello Walt, how are you?” Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door.

I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt’s stress was palpable.
Finally, I said, “Walt, what’s the h-ll’s wrong?” He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, “George, you’re going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here.. I’ve been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months. Now I come here to bury these kids. I’m putting my letter in. I can’t take it anymore.” I said, “OK Walt. If that’s what you want, I’ll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps.”

Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.

Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory. Four, however, remain.

MY FIRST NOTIFICATION My third or fourth day in Norfolk , I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:
*Name, rank, and serial number.
*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.
*Date of and limited details about the Marine’s death.
*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.
*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.

The boy’s family lived over the border in North Carolina , about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina , I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions.

Three people were in the store. A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Storeowner walked up and addressed them by name, “Hello John . Good morning Mrs. Cooper.”

I was stunned. My casualty’s next-of-kin’s name was John Cooper !

I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, “I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Copper of (address.)

The father looked at me-I was in uniform – and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me.
Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion. I think I caught her before she hit the floor.
The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The storeowner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.

I returned the storeowner to his business. He thanked me and said, “Mister, I wouldn’t have your job for a million dollars.” I shook his hand and said; “Neither would I.”

I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk . Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house. I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone.

My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification.

THE FUNERALS Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals.. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys and how to fold the flag.

When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, “All Marines share in your grief.” I had been instructed to say, “On behalf of a grateful nation.” I didn’t think the nation was grateful, so I didn’t say that.

Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn’t speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder.
They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.” My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.

ANOTHER NOTIFICATION Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother’s house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenlythe door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming “NO! NO! NO! NO!”

I hesitated. Neighbors came out. I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house. Eight or nine neighbors followed. Ten or fifteen later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.

The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.

ANOTHER NOTIFICATION One morning, as I walked in the office, the phone was ringing. Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, “You’ve got another one, Colonel.” I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call, I have no idea why, and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special Telephone Directory that translates telephone numbers into the person’s address and place of employment.

The father of this casualty was a Longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman’s Union Office and asked for the Business Manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father’s schedule.

The Business Manager asked, “Is it his son?” I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, “Tom is at home today.” I said, “Don’t call him. I’ll take care of that.” The Business Manager said, “Aye, Aye Sir,” and then explained, “Tom and I were Marines in WWII.”

I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, “Is Mr. Smith home?” She smiled pleasantly and responded, “Yes, but he’s eating breakfast now. Can you come back later?” I said, “I’m sorry. It’s important, I need to see him now.”

She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, “Tom, it’s for you.”

A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door. He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said, “Jesus Christ man, he’s only been there three weeks!”

Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth…. I never could do that… and held an imaginary phone to his ear.

Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, “Got it.” and hung up. I had stopped saying “Thank You” long ago.

Jolly, “Where?”

Me, “Eastern Shore of Maryland . The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back from Vietnam .”

Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, “This time of day, it’ll take three hours to get there and back. I’ll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I’ll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief’s home.”

He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father’s door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, “Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?”
I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime.

He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00PM). “I’ve gone through my boy’s papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?” I said, “Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will.”

My wife who had been listening said, “Can you do that?” I told her, “I have no idea. But I’m going to break my ass trying.”

I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, “General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?” General Bowser said,” George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you.

I was and the Admiral did.. He said coldly, “How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel.” I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, “Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?” The Chief of Staff responded with a name.

The Admiral called the ship, “Captain, you’re going to do a burial at sea. You’ll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed.”

He hung up, looked at me, and said, “The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don’t have to sic Al Bowser on my ass.” I responded, “Aye Aye, Sir” and got the h-ll out of his office.

I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship’s crew for four days.
Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, “These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?”

All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, “Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out.”

They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worst for wear, and said, “It’s simple; we cut four 12″ holes in the outer shell of the casket on each side and insert 300 lbs of lead in the foot end of the casket. We can handle that, no sweat.”

The day arrived. The ship and the sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth.

The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The Chaplin spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea.

The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea. The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever.

The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, “General, get me the f*ck out of here. I can’t take this sh_t anymore.” I was transferred two weeks later.

I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.

Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, “Well Done, Colonel. Well Done.”

I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!

That is all


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94 Comments on Burial at Sea by LtCol George Goodson, USMC (Ret)

Gregory Romeu said : Guest Report 2 years ago

"Should The Army and The navy ever look on Heaven's scene, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines." We will all be along shortly. Thank you for your fortitude Colonel! Semper Fidelis, Gregory Romeu, CPL, USMC

Gregory Romeu said : Guest Report 2 years ago

"Should The Army and The Navy ever look on Heaven's scene, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines." We will all be along soon! Thank you for your fortitude Colonel! Semper Fideelis, Gregory Romeu, CPL, USMC

Max Dolan said : Guest Report 2 years ago

Semper Fi, Col. Goodson. You are a good man and I am glad that I read this account. God Bless You!

eaglesnester said : Guest Report 2 years ago

I did my 20 USN and FMF as the Doc. On active duty before, during, and after the Nam flap. Never went thank God. Dad did 20, USA M/Sgt. WWII and Korea, Bronze star, Silver Star, 2 purple hearts, Combat infantry badge, 5 good conduct awards. When I read this posted account I cried.

eaglesnester said : Guest Report 2 years ago

I did my 20, my dad did his 20. Me USN and FMF as the Doc. Dad, M/Sgt, WW2, Korea two purple hearts, combat infantry badge with oak leaf clusters, bronze star, silver star, 5 good conduct awards. When I read this post I had tears streaming down both cheeks.

rick r. reese said : Guest Report 2 years ago

My family has been at war w/this criminal gubmint 4 years. I ask played LA Guns Over the edge while reading this article.What are any of us doing supporting these traitors? Time is getting short.........pls google Reese family Fast and Furious scapegoat? Not all wars are in a foreign lands,

rick r. reese said : Guest Report 2 years ago

My family has been at war w/this criminal gubmint 4 years. I ask played LA Guns Over the edge while reading this article.What are any of us doing supporting these traitors? Time is getting short.........

karin Huffman said : Guest Report 2 years ago

IYoung a daughctually trying to find out about burial at father William I Johnson11..retired. He served 30 years, Vietnam, Baruit, etc..He started at little creek in the 60's in the Naval Ship Yard....He was a Senior Chief. MASTER DIVER Navy Seal team 1 He also taught in Washington DC Cat the Navy Diving school.I was privileged to visit there in the 80's and I have been on some of the ships..I also visited him in Panama City Florida when he was stationed there..After he retired he attended North Carolina State and received his teaching degree..He then taught school for 20 years in the Virginia Beach school system..He has helped me and both my children with many different things in life..I am incredibly proud of him...In the end he beat prostate cancer and was dealing with heart disease. ..He passed away peacefully in his sleep on thanksgiving San Diego at my brother's home...My brother didn't even tell me until 3 days later..In hadn't seen my Dad in a year and a half, he was planning a trip to colorado to visit me n my children Thomas 23 and Kelsey now 27 in the spring. SO i was of course extremely sad n upset.I wanted to go and at least hold his hand and and say goodbye. ..but my stepbrother said he was busy with his small children n didn't have a place for even sleep on the sofa r floor. ..At one point my father's will said he wanted to b buried in Arlington National he n my mother were from Baltimore and most of his family is on the east coast. .I was born in Norfolk Portsmouth Naval hospital 1960....his ex wife dolly is stil in Virginia Beach and they were even better friends aftr the divorce before he moved to San Diego to help my step brother with his children. ..Anyway long story short..My father's last wishes were to have his ashes spreads big deal made etc..I thought mayb my children n I could go to San Diego and we could do a small ceremony with my stepbrother and his 3 Young daughters. .But the next thing I knew I got a message to pick up a package at my local post office...My stepbrother had sent my father's ashes to me.....omgoodnes. .that was we haven't spoken since as I found his actions extremely insensitive. ..I just could even open the package. .i left it on my dining table..My thoughtful son Thomas then wrapped it in an American flag we had and put it on his dresser so i wouldn't gave to pass it every day ....anyway I have been trying to figure out what to do since.....i don't want to say goodbye. .but he does deserve a ceremony and I would like to share it with my children his ex wife and mayb his, sister Ann and my cousin Debby whom he loved very much..They live in Maryland and I'm sure it would b good for us all ..I just don't know what or how to do this? ???? Any suggestions. .Ty in advance to anyone who can help me with this......

» AN ASPECT OF WARS YOU NEVER CONSIDER – A Post Memorial Day Missive said : Guest Report 2 years ago

[…] from The SandGramPublisher: Marine Corps AssociationPublication Name: Marine Corps GazetteSubject: Military and naval […]

booksbenji said : Guest Report 4 years ago

LtCol. Goodson, I served @ MCBCAMLEJ('70-'73)under the Base Adjutant. We did the same job, it was pleasant, you never knew what would happened as the parents, girlfriend, wife or children. I still to this day know the names, dates and get Christmas from some of the familt, some served in the military. This is my PTSD!!!!

Mark Webster said : Guest Report 4 years ago

To LCol. Goodson, Very tough duty, Colonel, sounds like they couldn't have found a better man for the job though. Thank you very much for your service. Thank you also for your words and memories. We would all do well to heed and cherish them as hard and painful as they may be.

Herbert W. Neeland said : Guest Report 4 years ago

Air Force/Neurosurgical ICU, Willford Hall Med. Ct. 432nd, Combat Support, SouthEastAsia/GAR for SEA casualties. Hand Salute to "LtCol George Goodson USMC (Ret). God Bless Your strong and gentle Heart.......

Taco Bell said : administrator Report 6 years ago

Not sure, I'd bet a typo... S/F Taco

Rick Gleason said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Sorry if my first post actually was sent, but there was no indication on your site that it did, so I will try one more time. Can you explain why Colonel Goodson's story as posted here, and elsewhere on the Internet, differs from the one you linked to that appeared in the September issue of The Marine Corps Gazette? Even in one or two cases points of fact are different. (2 hours vs. 3 to travel). It appears that possibly two different versions were written. One in his 76th year and the other in his 78th. Thank you!

Rick Gleason said : Guest Report 6 years ago

I wonder if you can explain why the story as here printed and others I have seen on the Internet varies considerably from the one printed in the Septmber 2007 issue of The Marine Corps Gazette? It appears possible that two different versions may have been written. One in his 76th year, another in his 78th. In a few cases some of the facts are even different. Thank you.

Mike Amsbaugh said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Nothing exciting or glamorous, but a moving story that puts things in perspective about the many different roles we are asked to fufill within the military community. CPT Mike Amsbaugh (Ret) USMC, 1985-89 USA, 1990-05 said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Burial at sea by ltcol george goodson usmc ret.. Keen :)

Nana said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Honey,you need a hug. Here's one from me. I have always been prosoldier even as I am antiwar. Sometimes we do have to fight, but this is more reason that we must only do it if we truly must and only for the best of all possible reasons. Our kids who serve deserve us to be that careful about sending them in to so much danger. Thank you, sir, for all you've done for all of us.

Bob Smiley said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Thank you, Colonel. Your work will never be forgotten by the families whose lives you touched. No, the nation wasn't very grateful then. But the Marines were. And the families were. And so are we who are able to share your experiences through your writing. Bob Smiley USN '61 to '64

Dr. John E. Russell said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Been there and done that. It's hard. Servicemen die, families suffer. I am tired of Islamic Jihadists killing our young people. I pray that the Lord will give us wisdom to end this mess. John Dr. John E. Russell Chaplain (COL) AUS Retired Vietnam, 1969

Gerry Dietz said : Guest Report 6 years ago

I just finished reading this email and had to look it up. What a great man Lt. Col. Goodson is. Thank you for your service. Thank you Taco for taking the time to share this with all of us not worthy enough to have met this great man

Michele Anthony said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Thank you, LtCol Goodson for your service to our country. Thank you for my freedom.

Sam said : Guest Report 6 years ago

My tour in Vietnam was not in a combat role. Rather, I was a physician. Most of my patients were wounded Marines. Most of them lived, and those who did not were mourned. Much of the nation was not grateful, but those who met and cared for those brave young men certainly are among many who honor and always remember them. LtCol Goodson's job was hard, and like all who were wounded and all who died and all who serve, he also deserves our utmost respect and thanks.

Steven Hildebrand said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Thank you, Colonel Sir, for your honorable service to this nation and her people. You have my undying respect. Just another civilian

Don't like your job ? - Multiplay Forums said : Guest Report 6 years ago

[...] Everyone complains about their job at one time or another, I know I do, but have a read of this : The SandGram Blog Archive Burial at Sea by LtCol George Goodson, USMC (Ret) It somewhat puts into perspective how good we probably all have it. __________________ i27, [...]

Bradly said : Guest Report 6 years ago

When Gulf War v1.0 was in the process of starting, my father was notified that they were bringing him out of retirement (he had been out for less than a year) and were going to make him CACO for No. Va. He informed his soon to be superiors that were he given this assignment, he was going to Canada. This Marine had done 24 years, including 4 tours of Viet Nam (as an advisor and as a combat Marine), Dominican, and had done many other things to prove his strength of character, and here he was threatening to run out on his duty. That's all I ever needed to know about the job the man in this article was forced into.

Fozzy said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Thank you for the suffering with the families. The fact is that for us, the military ARE the only group who will suffer with and for us. On the 24th of this month, it will be three years since we got "the knock". I am forever in awe of the fine men and women who accept this job. It to me shows more bravery than those who are going into combat, the at least can fight back at some foe. To bring death into someone's living room is a horrendous task. I salute you sir!

Anon said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Thank you to all of our armed forces. That was a very moving story and difficult to read at times. I don't envy anyone of that job. Thank you again - all of you for your sacrifices so that I am a free man.

DAVID sCHOFIELD said : Guest Report 6 years ago


Joey Bagadonuts said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Thank God for LtCol Goodson and all you brave men and women who have worn our countries uniform with pride and bravery these last 200 years. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. May God bless you all.

Thankful. said : Guest Report 6 years ago

Thank you my old friend for passing this along to me... I am grateful for our military and their families. Each of us must do more for the soldiers coming home today and for the families of those who do not. I will do more than just say -Thank you- today. Reach out people. Take action. Prior-IL-ARNG

James said : Guest Report 6 years ago

I am ex Navy Reserve 1970/1976, WESTPAC on Yankee Station, Tonkin Gulf, 1972. Thank you and a salute to the Colonel. I cannot imagine doing the job he did. I very fortuitously discovered this story today as I was involved in a fight against Stolen Valor. I posted a link to this site as an example to some young people on a forum, of WHY the issue of Stolen Valor is important. My prayer is that the Colonels words have an ongoing impact to an ever-growing audience. Semper Fi, Sir.

Richard Magner said : Guest Report 6 years ago

I served in Vietnam as a Marine 67-68 and was wounded. When a Marine was killed in our unit the evacuation was swift. We had no time to grieve. We had to suck up and move on. After coming back to the states and being stationed at Lejeune I thought more about those Marines I knew and what their loved ones must have gone thru during the notification process. I salute LtCol. Goodson, it takes a special breed to be the bearer of such devastating news. I thank you Sir for your service, and may God bless you. Semper Fi! Richard Magner, Sgt. USMC 67-71 CWO2, ret. MDARNG 76-93

Patricia said : Guest Report 6 years ago

I was a kid back when Vietnam was being fought. My grandfather was in the Army National Guard I think. He trained at the Armory in the town we lived in. He was a Gunny ( I found out at his funeral what that was ) They just called him gunny. He had us drawing pictures and he would send them in the care packages, I didn't know how to print yet. I did this for years at first because my gramps asked me to but once I got a letter and I was hooked knowing how much that letter meant. I wrote to my roommates brother when he was deployed during the first gulf War. I never talked about the war or what he did ( my friend told me so I knew what he did) Now I belong to a group many veterans from many wars and just as many who are not Veterans. We meet every plane bringing soldiers to our state,some returning from their deployment some leaving for it. Night or day we are there and they walk Heroes walk we tell them how much we appreciate their service. I don't talk politics or questions about their service. I ask them how their families are and can we do anything for them. I have never had to write the blank check but I'm not at the mall either. Nope I'm at the fence waving Godspeed to the men and women who are going home or into harms way. My gramps taught me respect for our soldiers, wanted me to be one but I knew I didn't have what it takes. My group says this "Freedom is a Toll road thanks for paying our way". Thank You

LtCol George Goodson, USMC (Ret) - Harley Davidson Forums: Harley Davidson Motorcycle Forum said : Guest Report 6 years ago

[...] of the email and another with an interview with LtCol Goodson. As i say, it's a moving account. Burial at Sea Interview God bless not only the men serving in the military laying their lives on the line for [...]

Bill French said : Guest Report 6 years ago

I spent from 63-66 in the USMC. Like the LtCol., I spent time in DOM/REP as well as Vietnam. In DOM/REP I lost my CO as well as my friend that I joined the Marines with from Concord, Mass. I've read MANY accounts of veterans experiances while in, but never any thing that touched me so deeply as what I just read about LtCol George Goodson. Sir, I salute you.

Bill French said : Guest Report 6 years ago

I proudly served in the Marines from '63-'66. Like LT/COL Goodson, I too served in Dom/Rep '65. Then Vietnam 65/66. In Dom/Rep I lost my CO as well as a friend from Concord, Mass. that joined with. I have read many accounts of Veterans experiances while in and after. None touched me more than what I just read by LT/COL George Goodson. I salute you sir! God bless you sir, and God bless Chesty Puller wherever he may be.

Bill Lee said : Guest Report 7 years ago

I started to read this and couldn't stop, it was like time stopped and my mind went right there. My heart still aches for the dead we put on the choppers. USMC 66-69 RVN 67-68 17,807 KIA's during my twelve months and twenty days in country.

Richard said : Guest Report 7 years ago

I served in the Military police and definately understand the consequences of serving in the Military. and I feel it should be an obligation to every able bodied American to serve. However The job of "notification of next of Kin" would be one I would find very difficult or impossible for me to do. You, LTC. Goodson, Sir are to be commended for your service and loyality to this Country. I thank you for your service to this Country and wish you well in your retirement. Thank you Richard Maine

James Dean Wardlow, Sgt. USMC said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Sorry I need to say more... I am 62 I was in viet Nam also. I was very lucky to get back home. I now have a Harley Davidson and Ride with PGR. As proud as I am to ride for the Vets and stand for their funerals I am also ashamed of the reason we do this for them, in the fact that it has come to be because of people that so desrespect our man and women that laid down their lives for us. So far i am proud of our tyowns people that it has not happened here but it dose in other towns. How could they desrupt a familys time of grif so rudly? THANK YOU SO MUCH.............

James Dean Wardlow, Sgt. USMC said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Sir; Thank you Sir !!!!

Mickey Campagna said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Col. Goodson, I'm reading this on Memorial Day 2010, a beautiful sunlit day with a gentle breeze. I get to do this, sit with my dogs, in my own yard, reading a book because of better men than me, like you. Words can never tell you, all of you, how grateful I am. I just pray that God with hold you, and everyone who stands guard on this day and into the night, in His hands. Thank you. Mickey Campagna Alexandria, VA

Bob Marrion said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Bravo Zulu Col Goodson. Your story was forwarded to me by a co-worker who knows me well enough to believe I would appreciate it. I'm a lifetime member of the VVA, have VVA tags on my pickup truck, raise and lower the Flag at my NC home damn near every day and want to say "Welcome home" Bob Marrion, Waterlily, NC

M.P. McCaffrey (Former Cpl USMC) said : Guest Report 7 years ago

I just don't have the words Col...I defy anyone to read that with out a kleenex handy. A lousey job well done ..... Mike

Bill Cook said : Guest Report 7 years ago

This story is burned into my memory. Thank you Col. Goodson for your service and for sharing this heartfelt story. God Bless! Bill (Biker Bill) Cook ASA '62-'65 NC PGR

Randall Covey said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Jesus Christ. Col. Goodson, you have my utmost respect. Semper Fi, Marine. v/r, a simple Squid

Roger Moses said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Gentlemen; I never served, went to the Induction Center in Kansas City in 1972, was ready to enlist, the evacuation was getting underway (I think)(been a while). My dad Ralph Moses 26 yrs, five of his brothers and two friends all enlisted in the Army. My moms older brother Lester L. Young (16) & Aaron Young (18, his uncle, older by 2 years) joined the Marines, did boot camp, left for the South Pacific. Another friend Ward William Sullivan was sent to Mindanao as a Scout, US Army. They all were practically kids. They told me numerous stories, I love them all, they went through situations beyond comprehension, Aaron operated a flame thrower, Lester a rifle, My dad was a nurse and cook on the Maetsuycker. I miss them all, they are all gone in body, still with me in my head. To all of you who served, I thank you and appreciate what you did to make our lives and country safe. You are all in my prayers. Roger Moses, Hays, Kansas

orvet said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Colonel, While I did not serve under you in the Corps, you are the kind of officer who inspires the best from his men. It is my privilege to have served in Vietnam with men of your caliber! Semper Fi, Dale

Hour of the Time » HOTT Newslinks March 7, 2010 said : Guest Report 7 years ago

[...] [...]

Ralph Winterrowd 2nd said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Few Americans understand and even fewer care unfortunately. Thanks for your service. Really gives pause for the day for this particular difficult duty. This brought tears to my eyes.

roger elder said : Guest Report 7 years ago

George Goodson's story is quite touching and sad. The day is coming, soon I pray, that men will no longer learn war, and those who are intent on making war will be destroyed from the earth, never to live again. The creator owns this place.....we don't.....he makes the rules, we don't. When humans put their trust in earthling man, the outcome is always bad. Earthling man "cannot even direct his next step!"

Barbara Cochran said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Thank you for your service. I was on the receiving end of service like yours when my brother lost his life as a member of the Air Force. The men who came to our home were so compassionate and helpful.

Neil Latimer said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Thank you, Col. Goodson. Tough duty, well done, sir. Thank God our nation has men such as you and your fellow Marines. A 1969-1970 VietNam vet, U.S. Army

TOM ALLABAUGH said : Guest Report 8 years ago


Bob Blair said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Col. Goodson, you have performed the most difficult mission in our country and you did it with all the courage and all the heart of a U.S.Marine. Thank You for your service to our country and God bless you. A Nam Vet

Elizabeth Lashley said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Thank you Lt.Col Goodson, from a Marine Corp Mother.

Wayne Myers, USN(Ret) said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I was in during the Vietnam era. But I thank God the Navy sent me to other exotic places like Pensacola, Fl, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Norfolk, Va. The rest of my career was spent as an active duty reservist, for which I'm proud, as I performed to the best of my ability. I think of myself as the best Yeoman they ever had. One of the duties of active reservists serving at remote sites, such as Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Center, Jackson, MS we served as poll bearers for military funerals. I was fortunate that I was never the senior guy there who had to hand the folded flag to the next of kin. Thank you, Colonel, for your service. What a great article.

Brian Nesta said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I've been a Police Officer for almost 28 years, and have had to make many death notifications. Lt. Col. Goodson is among the most eloquent of writers, and properly conveys to his reader the angish of performing this most solemn of duties. At 76, there is no question that he lives every day with Honor, Pride, and loss. I served in our Marine Corps for six years active duty commencing in November, 1969. I may not have realized it then, but they were among the best years of my life and certainly the foundation for whatever success I've had in life. Semper Fidelis! Lt. Brian Nesta Toms River (NJ) Police department

A HARD job at anytime « TCD ramblings said : Guest Report 8 years ago

[...] I found today, I found an article about being a notification officer. The SandGram posted both the story and an interview.  This story is important for two reasons: 1) It makes it a little clearer to [...]

Mary Helen said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Dear Lt. Col. Goodson, I was three years old almost to the day when U.S. troops were sent to Viet Nam, and in high school when the war was nearly ended honorably. At first I didn't know the word "casualty" meant a person's death. It sounded ... casual to me, so I thought it meant a superficial wound. I do remember my parents’ faces during the casualty counts each evening around suppertime, and later how shamefully our soldiers were treated upon their return by their fellow Americans. But it was when I became a mother that the reality of other mothers’ and fathers’ children being killed in a war, pierced my heart. Whenever I see a gentleman wearing a baseball cap stating his military service, I shake his hand and thank him for that service. All these men say "You're welcome." Some add "That was a long time ago." I reply that regardless of the war(s) in which they served, it's what they were willing to do for us and this country that evokes my deep gratitude. I often have the privilege of chatting with them for a few minutes, getting to know them a little, and once again thanking them. Sometimes they shed tears at the acknowledgement. Those soldiers are always Viet Nam vets. When you get to Heaven, you'll have a lot of hands to shake - the sons of all those to whom you brought the hardest news. Lt. Col. Goodson, thank you for your service.

Sara Baker said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Our military operates efficently only because of the diverse jobs, each of which is vitally important. I have spoken to many servicemen who were willing to be in the midst of the battle, yet were not who felt somewhat ashamed that their job was without the risk. Their jobs were essential to the others, and were due the same honor. This duty, however would require a kind of bravery that can't be found in a common man, but one of great compassion. Thank you for your willingness to have served in this capacity. To those of you who were visited by these messengers, my condolences and appreciation for the services rendered to a grateful nation.

The SandGram » Blog Archive » Internet legend, LtCol George Goodson USMC (Ret) said : Guest Report 8 years ago

[...] your keyboard.  This past July, I opened my mailbox to read one of those emails, and it was titled A burial at Sea (hyperlinked here) by LtCol George Goodson USMC (Ret). This piece was written around 2004, not long [...]

Taco Bell said : administrator Report 8 years ago

Guys, stand by, I am going to interview LtCol George Goodson and will post it in the next few days. Merry Christmas and Semper Fi, Taco

The SandGram » Blog Archive » Interview with LtCol George Goodson USMC (Ret) said : Guest Report 8 years ago

[...] First of all Merry Christmas to you all since I will most likely be on road leaving the 24th for a trip somewhere, but I have a Christmas present for you.  I am going to interview LtCol George Goodson (Ret) who wrote the moving piece on “Burial at Sea”    [...]

Tony P said : Guest Report 8 years ago

In 2005 the Rocky Mountain News (now defunct) won two Pulitzer Prizes for their "Final Salute", the story of Major (now Col) Steven Beck's tour of doing this job. It's a wonderfully written and photographed story, which along with some other continuation articles, finally published into a book of the same name. The Rocky's links aren't well maintained but the html version of the insert is here: I suggest you have a box of tissues nearby.

Chad said : Guest Report 8 years ago


Mr Ranger Joe Shelley said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I haven't visited your Web Site since the Start of the Global War on Terrorism. It is 1:41 am and this was a great article to close the day with. God Speed Mr. Ranger Joe Shelley

Henry Rhea said : Guest Report 8 years ago

This was sent to me in an email by my brother-in-law, Eddy Johnson, former squid in the Cold War Navy. He and his boat participated in the Cuba blockade. I knew when I read it that it was real. This was no phony tear jerker story you see so much of on the internet. But I wanted to know where it came from, and where I could copy it from to post it on my old unit's site without all the forwarded >> marks that really break up the flow of something. That search led me here, and to the site of The Marine Corps Gazette. Thanks, Taco, for posting it here. And I want to grab the opportunity to thank Judy Crausbay Hamilton, Nam Nurse '68-'69, who posted here Aug 8, 2009 too. I never needed the services and attention of any of you wonderful ladies while there, for which I thank God. But I've always wanted to thank you all for what you did and for what you endured. It took me a lot of years before I was finally able to figure out why we were there. But I knew all along why you were. You were there for us. Thank you.

Robert Blackeood said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Col., God only puts special people in really special Jobs. Remember, he to lost his only Son. It is a shame that so many of our Sons and Brothers lost all they had trying to serve and protect a lot of people that were not worthy of calling their name. The shamefull way a lot of people treated our men as they came home from Nam and from other ingagements I hope haunts they till the last breath they take. God BLESS.

Jerry Gulledge said : Guest Report 8 years ago

To all service members, their family and friends. God bless all the fight and ready to fight for our rights and freeom of our nation. You will never stand alone. Texas A & M Aggies hold "Silver Taps" every 2nd Tuesday of each month to honor and remember all Aggies(and service members) that have fallen the prior month.I know all Aggies (Cadet and non) will always be thankful

Pam said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Dear Lt. Col. Goodson, Words cannot possibly thank you for the "hardest job" anyone would ever be required to do. You did it with compassion, and wisdom. God bless you.

RICHARD M.kELLER said : Guest Report 8 years ago

If possible I would like Lt. Col. Goodson's email address so I can forward alcolades I have after I sent article to friends. I sent to Jim Webb's daughter and requested she forward to him. Richard M. Keller Col.USAF,Ret

RICHARD M.kELLER said : Guest Report 8 years ago

If possible I would like Lt. Col.Goodson's email address. I sent to many people and receive his alcolades back I sent to Jim Webb's daughter and requested she forward article to him Richard M.Keller Col. USAF, Ret.

Chris Whitehead said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I'm retired Air Force and served in Viet Nma, at Saigon. The first time I saw a K-Loader bring five pallets to my plane (C-141) to load I had to ask what the "silver boxes" were. One of my crew told me they were KIA. He realized I was not familar with the term. The he said "Killed in Action" When he said that,I could feel the blood drain from my face. He saw my shock and said I turned white as a sheet. I recovered after a few minutes. This sceen was replayed weekly as ore and more of our brave service members left Viet Nam in the least expected manner. Col. Goodson, your duty was extremely hard, but I thank you for your service and dedication. This was a good read, but difficult, as has already been pointed out. Don't ever be afraid to shed a tear.

threadbndr said : Guest Report 8 years ago

The mantra that kept me sane during my son's deployments was "as long as there's not a Marine at the door, I'm good. No news is good news." Sir, thank you for your service and especially for that thankless job. I know that the families did appreciate your presence and assistance, even if they didn't show it at the time. When my husband died, those first few hours were helped immensely by the presence of his commanding officer, who drove me to a neighboring city to notify his mother. Karla (mother and mother in law of Marines, widow of a LEO)

Judy Crausbay Hamilton said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I closed the eyes of many brave soldier in Vietnam, and was ever so grateful I did not have to deliver the message to the parents that their valiant warrior was dead. Our nation was not grateful, this was painfully true. My prayers are still with the families of those men and women whose names are etched on a polished black granite Wall in D.C. God protect our men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq with prayers here that not an official envoy, but soldier and Marine will walk up to the door of their homes; opened by their parents. Persons of my generation who experienced the hell of war, hearts ache with each loss. Judy Nam Nurse 68-69

Steve Kennedy said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Sir, God bless you for your duty performance. I stated "performance" because you obviously had the same emotional reaction as a family member as you did what was required. I pray that we that have suffered losses (as we served), and honor their service, are still the majority in this country. Again, I thank you. I never had a duty as tough as yours in my three combat tours.

Al Langley, CW4 (Ret,) said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Col. Goodson's memories of VietNam reminded me of mine. Sometimes, sitting on the front porch here at home, all of a sudden I can smell VietNam. No reason, it just happens. I imagine for you guys/gals that spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq you too will experience that if you haven't already. Thanks to the Col. for his service ... much tougher than combat! P.s. Enjoyed your site.

Thomas Whitman said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I was honored and proud to attend one burial at sea in 1987 off the coast of California on an LHA. It is a remarkable experience that combines both sadness and pride. Only in our experience, the casket did not want to cooperate with the intentions of the US Navy. Our gunners finished off the ceremony and the grace of God began.

Steve said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I found this story from "Murphy Was A Grunt". Thank you for sharing this story. It was a great read. God Bless. Steve

`Romolo Garbatini said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I'm a WW II Marine--Okinawa. I cry a little every day for these men, and the older I get the more I cry each day-and for he people like the Colonel.

Gunner said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Semper-Fi Brother.

Gawfer, Squid said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Taco, I made it by way of our mutual friend, John. Moved to tears, I must thank you for posting this. If only the naive could understand the profound sacrifice all who serve make for the sake of our freedom. OOYAH! (Squid speak), and OORAH! (Marine speak)

John Keil said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Gob bless you, Col. Goodson! Thank you for your service, and for shouldering the grief of a nation.

Robert C. said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I, too, have never served in the military, but I truly respect and admire those have served, especially those who served in harm's way. I can't begin to imagine the feelings they experience in combat and how they suffer when they lose a comrade-in-arms. Thanks to those who keep us safe and who deserve much more than what the liberal media and their ilk dump on them.

Sammy D said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Thank you for posting this, Taco. Very moving, and a tribute to all who serve and the families who await their return. BTW You do. (write that well)

Lawyer with a Gun said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I found your blog by way of "Murphy was a Grunt." Thank you for this post. I am still amazed and grateful that many who do not know me would sacrifice so much to protect my family.

Leta said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I, too, was moved to tears reading this Taco. It reminded me of the book, "Final Salute" by Jim Sheeler. His book chronicles the return of remains of Iraq and Afghanistan war Heroes. The book writes from both the Casualty Notification Officer persepective and that of the families they must notify. It's not an easy read but one that all should. Each time I get a DoD notification of a KIA I google that person to find out a little about them. Seems the very least we can do to "know" and HONOR those who give their lives so selflessly for our nation.

Just John said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Taco, Thanks for sharing that one; very moving. I doubt that many folks surf through old issues of the Gazette (except to print out old TDGs), and this one may have been overlooked by many without your posting the link.

Taco Bell said : administrator Report 8 years ago

Gang, this well written piece came from the Marine Corps Times and I have Nello to thank for providing the link to give credit to the right folks. I received it in an email and was moved to tears as I read it and wanted to share it. I wish I could write that well. Semper Fi, Taco

ian said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I have just come to your blog from "murphy was a grunt" and I have to say that even though I have nevfer served in any of the armed forces for any country, I greatly admire those who do and have done so that we can have the freedoms we now enjoy. I found this Blog "burial at sea" very well written and very moving. blessings to you and keep up the good writting. Ian

Bob Perrow said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Wow...........tough assignment. I'm so very glad nobody ever had to show up at my door in dress blues. Bob Perrow

1IDVET said : Guest Report 8 years ago

Dude. That was a hard read. Thanks for your service LTC Goodson. That has to take one hell of a man to do that duty.

John Septer said : Guest Report 8 years ago

I praise God for all who wear the flag of this great country with honor and courage, and feel sorry, for those who don't understand it. They will know our pride. John E. Septer I

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