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

War’s Death Watch, Part 1 of 3

The following is the first installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer.USMC Eagle, Anchor & Globe  Written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) it was published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007.    Because of its length it’s divided here into three parts.  Part 2 and part 3 will be published here over the next two days.

This story is a personal one, but shared with many from a unique perspective.  It is one Marine officer’s 18-month long experience as he notifies the families of soldiers killed in Vietnam when casualties were on the rise.  In 1967 — when this story begins — the U.S. saw the number of its soldiers killed increase from the year before by 81% to more than 11,000.  The following year 1968 would be far worse.  16,592 American G.I.’s were killed that year.  By the end of the Vietnam war nearly 53,000 would die.  Unbelievably those numbers pale to those lost in the Civil War, but by today’s standards they’re difficult to comprehend.

Someone once said: A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including their life.’  That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

What follows is shared in remembrance of all our veterans who have served our country faithfully.  We especially honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and to the families they left behind.  Thanks to Colonel Goodson for sharing his story.

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