Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Interview with Internet legend, LtCol George Goodson USMC (Ret)

December 22nd, 2009 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

There are times when you receive an email that draws such raw emotions out of you that it’s possible to cry over 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 article was written around 2004, not long after the war began and I wondered if this was a true story or just another well-written Internet piece that was circulating in the ethersphere from one mailbox to another, constantly forwarded, for good reason, as people recognize a well put together memoir from long ago.  I felt the power of his message so much, that I published it right away.

I experienced emotions buried deep in my conscious from over twelve years ago when I, too, was tasked to deliver the news to the spouse of one of our Marines who was killed the night before in an auto accident.  You never forget putting on your Dress Blues, rehearsing what you will say to his wife or the gut punch as his young son opens the door to greet you while you stand there in Uniform.  George’s article brought all that to my forefront as I sat weeping in front of my computer.

I felt the urge to track him down one morning and talk to him about his time in the Corps.  Putting on my past hat as a private investigator, I found him at home with his wife enjoying a nice cup of coffee, oblivious to how his piece had affected thousands across the nation.  I have to admit that I was a bit tongue-tied as I stumbled through my introduction as to why I was cold calling him.  He was very humble about his service in the Corps and receptive to my call.  I set up a time to call him back that afternoon to catch up.  The hours slowly passed as I tended to our sick kids suffering from Strep throat and later while they napped, I dialed his number.

Now we are the same rank, but somehow I feel as though I’m speaking to a former General thus my conversation is laced with “Yes Sir’s” etc. to which George says, “Quit calling me Sir, you can call me George.” This makes me smile, and I reply “Ok George, you can call me Taco, all my friends do and it’s better than Tinker Bell.”  George is 81 years old now and has had some rough patches with his health but I imagine a man 6’4 who is still in great health in my mind’s eye.  He laughs and reminds me he is about 5’9 and not a superman but his wife is, as she teaches water aerobics every day. 

George grew up in the rural south, in a depression era family where one child was the norm and comes from a long line of Americans as one of his ancestors arrived in 1656.  His father, a machinist, had a strong influence on his upbringing, making George the man he is today and unfortunately he died from a heart attack shortly after George joined the Marines in 1951.  I asked him what the deciding factor was leading him to service in the Corps.  Was it a family member, or growing up watching John Wayne movies?  George was quick to point out that he just wanted to shake the dust of that tiny little town off of his legs and see the world.  He despised John Wayne because he never served in the Great War but he did admire the stars like Jimmy Stewart and Ty Powers who fought in combat.  (I too despise some of the stars of Hollywood today for their lack of backbone and apparent greed, and love the few that go support our troops in the war).

As we spoke, George reflected on his “I Love Me Wall”, (most of us have such a spot in our offices where we display awards and unit plaques).  His first MOS was in demolition and he attended school in Camp LeJeune followed by an opportunity to serve in more specialized warfare.   He attended Army Special Forces training in the fifties and rates both the Army and Marine Jump wings, with over 139 jumps, many in combat, and has earned several awards including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple hearts and even an Air Medal. 

I asked about some of his wounds and if they all came from Vietnam.  He then told me about an operation in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson sent 42,000 Marines and Soldiers down to the Dominican Republic to restore peace and ensure there wasn’t a second “Cuba” on the doorstep of the United States.”   It turns out that he was shot in the head and the bullet didn’t penetrate that deep in his skull because the fella that shot him was in the surf on the beach and his gun was half submerged.  The Surgeon used a pair of pliers to remove the bullet and sent him on his merry way to rejoin his unit. (with a splitting headache I imagine)

This wasn’t the first time he had been shot or blown up.  While he was attached to the U.S. Military Assistance Command (MACV-SOG) Special Operations Group, he was billeted at the Victoria Hotel in downtown Saigon.  The VC detonated a bomb at the hotel on April 1st 1966 while he was asleep.  A combination of luck and his own strength allowed him to make it out of the hotel and to the US Embassy not far away, where his wounds were treated.  He wrote a story titled “September Song” detailing that experience.  He read some over the phone and after I type it up, will publish a few excerpts which will be in a future post.

He and his wife have children from previous marriages, and felt that it was important to put some of his experiences on paper so they would understand what war was about and the emotions he still feels today. Especially when he looks at the pictures on the wall in his study which include one of two crying Marines, sitting on “G.I.” cans.  He has it on the wall to remind him what war is about, and in his words, “it sucks!”

George is extremely proud of his time in uniform and his service throughout the world and doesn’t regret anything.  He is an icon in the internet world of electrons and doesn’t even realize it.  His prolific writings resonate with so many of us who have served in the military, and will be a timeless reflection on the price of war and what it extracts from our men and women.  LtCol Goodson, your service in the Marine Corps for our country will be remembered in the words you so eloquently expressed when you penned A Burial at Sea and will be for many generations to come.  For that, I think I can speak on behalf of the thousands of readers out there when I say, “we thank you Sir!!”

It was a real honor to speak with him, and I look forward to more conversations with this Great American!  I hope all of you deployed overseas have a calm and peaceful day on the 25th and I want to wish all of you reading this a very Merry Christmas and God Bless you all.

Semper Fi,        

Taco

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  1. 38 Responses to “Interview with Internet legend, LtCol George Goodson USMC (Ret)”

  2. By Jared on Dec 23, 2009

    Great read. It be great if more Americans reached out to thank our troops the way this company is doing: http://www.prescriptionaudio.com/holiday-card.php

  3. By Sammy D on Dec 27, 2009

    Merry Christmas, Taco, and thank you for this post. As always you’ve personalized the story of another Greatest Generation American, and we must not forget these men and women for without them, our lives would have been changed forever.

    You continue to generously share your experiences, the stories of those you meet in your travels, and your heartfelt writing style.

    I hope your “babies” are recovering and Mrs. Taco can sneak in a little rest for herself now that Santa is headed back to the North Pole.

    Good health and safe journeys, buddy. And hugs all around.

  4. By Leta on Dec 30, 2009

    I vividly remember reading “A Burial At Sea” back during the summer. More than poignant.

    I’m so glad you wre able to talk with Lt Col Goodson. I’m sure the time you two spent together on the phone was equally beneficial. Thank you for sharing this experience with us as well as for telling us more about Lt Col Goodson.

    I continue to be amazed and, well, down right pissed off at the number of Americans who don’t understand that it’s because of men like Lt Col Goodson, you and millions more throughout our nation’s history who have served in the military that we have everything we have today.

    Thank you Taco.

  5. By Randall Covey on Mar 10, 2010

    Good to know he’s still kicking. God grant him peace, and lots of great grand children. 🙂

  6. By Bill Cook on Mar 11, 2010

    Sir,

    My good friend Dan Hodge hooked me up with your blog after I had forwarded The LtCol’s story ‘Burial At Sea. I enjoyed your updated story about him.

    I am a Patriot Guard Rider, Former NC State Captain, and currently a Ride Captain. If you’re not familiar with the Patriot Guard please go to http://www.patriotguard.org, see what we’re about and even consider joining us. I have served more Missions with the PGR than I can remember but serving these heroes, their families, and communities has become a large part of who I am. We also did a burial at ‘sea’ for a Marine pilot a couple of years ago over Lake Norman. There were 3 T6’s and a piper cub involved in honorably spreading his ashes on the Lake. I wish I could share some pictures of it with you but I lost my hard drive awhile back and unfortunately had not copied them.

    I found it very difficult reading the LtCol’s Burial At Sea with tears in my eyes. I have worked with many Casualty Assistance Officers from all branches and have also met some very special people who accompanied a hero on his journey home and to his final resting place. I have told them what they mean to me… they know what they mean to the family.

    I’m sure you’ve seen “Taking Chance.” More tears. Our KIA missions all bring tears and it’s difficult to ride a motorcycle with tears in your eyes.

    Thanks again and I hope I haven’t bored you.

    Bill (Biker Bill) Cook
    ASA ’62 – ’65

  7. By Natasha van Doren on Apr 29, 2010

    While A Buriel at Sea was very touching, what about the families of these men and women serving? What about the children who will never know what there parent was like before the war made them not care about thier own families? Some children try thier whole lives to try to have the relationship with thier Mom or Dad only to be shown over and over again that they do not count. They are not Marines.
    I lost my father in those wars. He never could be a parent to me or my siblings. I feel as though he was killed in the war. But, by this interview I clearly see he is still dedicated to the Corps.
    Let’s show thanks to all the victims of war who are here living, ready to get that heartwrming, loving visit that Lt. Col Goodson gave to the families of those who died. I wish I had known that compassionate Marine instead of the father who never seemed to care.

  8. By Ed McCloskey on Jan 11, 2011

    I also served in Santo Domingo with Howtar Battery 3rd Bat 10th Marines FDC Chief
    The article regarding burial at sea and all the other services touched my heart and my memories having come to Artillery from 8th & I were I was on over 300 burial parties & funerals at Arlington & elsewhere.
    God Bless the Colonel & Semper Fi
    Ed “Mac” McCloskey

  9. By Bob Mack on Jan 11, 2011

    I received Lt.Col. Goodson’s post via e-mail from a veteran friend today. I am re-posting it with a link back to your interview. Am also linking to your site.

  10. By Taco Bell on Jan 12, 2011

    Mac, you don’t have a brother that lives in DC by chance and served in the early 60’s? Pete?
    S/F
    Taco

  11. By John Delich on Jan 26, 2011

    Powerfull & touching story!!!!!!!The Col. knows how to start the tears flowing on this 79 year old Korean vet.
    Regards-John

  12. By Becky on Jan 31, 2011

    Natasha, you have missed the meaning and the love and the dedication behind being a Marine….Do not judge all “Marines” by one example that you have in your mind…maybe if you crawled out from under your pity blankie and became a volunteer in your community perhaps working w/veterans or children of our armed forces you would see that we are a community of love not only for our country but also for our families and even at times towards our enemies…i know that Natasha will probably never read this but this is for all the Natasha’s in the world….

  13. By Cynthia Kauffman on Mar 6, 2011

    “Burial At Sea” should be posted on the Veterans History Project web site, if Lt. Col. Goodson is still living he can tell it in his own voice. If not, it’s already powerful enough in written form. Veterans of ALL wars should contact the project to tell their stories. Either call 888-371-5848 or visit http://www.loc.gov/vets to be heard. It’s important!

  14. By Cpl Doc Halliday on Mar 14, 2011

    Thank You

    SEMPER FI MARINE

  15. By Natasha van Doren on Apr 21, 2011

    Becky,
    I am sorry to upset you so much. I do volunteer in the community. I would love to work with veterans also.
    My issues is with what war does to people. The they have experienced things that have changed them for the rest of their lives. Who pays for that? The family does.That is the point of my post. Not that the Marines are bad, but what it does to the families is bad.
    I am glad to see that my father is happy with his new family, but what about the old one? What about all of all of the “great grandchildren”?

  16. By charles pefinis on May 26, 2014

    Colonel, I am a WWII combat infantry vet fought in Europe. My second book whose contents are the memoirs of persons who served will be published this year:”AMERICA at Its Best WWII et al .. Its “Rosies”, Its Nurses, Its Warriors. If you will allow me to include it in the book , then please send me an email which states that fact. Prefer a scanned message so that your signature can be seen
    . I’ll be very pleased to send you some excerpts of the book by email if I have your address. Google me for more info. THANKS!!

  17. By Craig Gross on Jun 3, 2021

    I am trying to find out if Lt.COL Goodson is still alive and with us?
    I am writing a book about my experiences as a GOLD STAR FATHER – and I would like to use his testimony in my book…but I need his permission.
    Please let me know –
    Craig Gross
    Chaplain –
    Gold Star Fathers of Florida

  18. By Laurie Goodson on Aug 2, 2021

    My dad, George O. Goodson Jr., passed away yesterday 8/1/2021). I already miss him immeasurably.

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