Another great hero
Veterans’ Voices is directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
It all started in 1967 when Michael G. graduated from Central High School in Fresno. There he ran the cross country and played first base in the baseball league. He also played trumpet in the orchestra and sang in the choir. His electives were in business. He then enrolled at Fresno City College and earned an Associate of Science Degree in Business in 1969. The end of 1969 was the start of the draft. Michael’s birthdate was picked 24th, so in April of 1970, he reported to Fort Ord in California for Basic training. Upon completion, he was assigned to Advanced Infantry training and while in formation of about 200 soldiers, he was told he was one of the top 10 being promoted to Private First Class.
His life was about to change. He was deployed to Vietnam and was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division. He was sent to the front lines on his very first day there. His company was helicoptered into a forward Artillery Base which received 2 mortar rounds, resulting in many KIA and WIAs (Killed in action and wounded in action). Michael was made aware of the realities of war that very moment. He thought of his family many times that day thinking how he was in college and was able to sleep comfortably in his own bed without fear of receiving mortar rounds. Going to college and doing the very things we all take for granted every day. Life can change in an instant.
The very next day, a F4 Phantom dropped Napalm on a nearby hill in response to the enemy. His unit received the unforgettable assignment to check out the results of the Napalm. He will never forget the sights he had to endure.
While in the jungle for about a month straight, the 7th Infantry Division was withdrawn from Vietnam, and he was reassigned to the American Unit 23rd Infantry. This unit was different. 8 days out in the front lines and 2 days in the rear having specific assignments each time out. He was immediately assigned to be trained to set up Claymore Mines each night. 4 Claymore trip wire mines were set up to protect them as they slept, along with 4 M62 machine gun posts, guarding in shifts. After about 2 months, the soldier that trained Michael was blown up disarming one of those Claymore mines.
Michael was assigned to take over his position and received a promotion to Specialist 4. There were numerous firefights, boobytraps and mortar attacks during that time that would never be forgotten. Then it happened to him. In December of 1970, Michael was shot.
While working near the border of Laos, he was shot with an AK47 by the South Vietnamese Army which was friendly fire (Weapon fire coming from our side). We were at war with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The bullet stuck his lower leg just below the knee while he was in the prone position. After surgery at the hospital in Vietnam for three long days, he was shipped to Camp Zama in Japan for 17 days. He was then flown to Travis Air Force Base and then taken to Fort Ord Army Hospital where he was informed, he was paralyzed below the left knee with a 50/50 chance of the nerve ever growing back. Michael knew he would beat those odds. Michael was then discharged in July 1971. It was necessary to use a prosthetic device to pull up his foot, allowing him to walk.
Michael went back to college at Fresno State, eventually getting his feeling back in his lower leg. He finally was able to dispose of his prosthetic device and started walking without it. He earned his bachelor’s degree later on.
Michael was finally able to continue with his life and start a family. It has been over 50 years since the war. He is once again able to sleep in his own bed each night without fear of mortars coming in or the enemy going through the perimeter wire. Michael is one of the reasons that we all can walk safely on the streets and sleep quietly each night. For the last 5 years, Michael has been a volunteer at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Fresno telling his story to others and guiding people at the museum.
So many veterans we see each day walk around with those war thoughts in their heads. When you see or identify one of those veterans, stop them. Tell them how much you appreciate their sacrifice making it possible for you to even walk outdoors. Thank them for their service.
Any thoughts or comments, you can email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com.
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— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army / Vietnam,
1st Cav/9th Infantry