War’s Death Watch, Part 3 of 3

The following is the third and final installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer.USMC Eagle, Anchor & Globe  It was written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) and published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007.  Because of it’s length it was divided here into three parts.  Part 1 was published Tuesday, part 2 yesterday.

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More Notifications and Funerals

More notifications and funerals followed.  My staff and I were numb.  The tension was palpable.  My marriage was affected; it ultimately failed.  My corpsman was so alarmed that he insisted on taking blood pressure readings on everyone–twice a day.  My staff and I ran 5 miles daily trying to reduce the stress.

My Last Notifcation: A Burial at Sea

One day while I was running, Sergeant Jolley 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.  I waved acknowledgement and went into the office.  Jolley handed me the phone.  It was another call from Headquarters Marine Corps.  I took notes and said, “Got it.”  I hung up.  I had stopped saying “thank you” long ago. Continue reading

War’s Death Watch, Part 2 of 3

The following is the second installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer.USMC Eagle, Anchor & Globe  It was written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) and published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007.  Because of it’s length it was divided here into three parts.  Part 1 was published the day before while the final Part 3 was published the following day.

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Notifications and Funerals

Over the next 18 months I notified the families of 18 Marines killed in action, 2 missing in action, and 30 seriously wounded in action.  Despite the controversy that existed about Vietnam, I received sympathy and affection from virtually every family.  Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.”  With tears in my eyes, I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  When I presented the flag to the father, mother or wife, I always said, “All Marines share your grief,” instead of, “On behalf of a grateful Nation.”  I didn’t think the Nation was grateful so I wouldn’t say that.

Flag Presentation U.S. Marine Continue reading