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The family I left behind, twice

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.

I didn’t join the military because I wanted to kill people or even be in a war for that matter. I didn’t fight in those wars because I believed they were right. I believe some people do. But I, and many others, am not one of them.

I am just a person. A person who has seen things, done things, and been places you couldn’t imagine. I will never be the same person I was before I signed up. I am proud to have served my country, but I have also done things I am not proud of, like many of us. They thank me for my service, when often I don’t feel I deserve gratitude. I believe I have to be strong, a proud representative of this great country.

I, like many others, were in debt or couldn’t find a job, so I took the job offered by the US Government. My girlfriend was pregnant, so we married when I was 17 years old. The US Government sounded like a really good offer. They would give me a career, give my wife and my daughter medical and would send money home to my wife all for a few years of my life. I was only a teenager — I had plenty of those years to give.

When I went to war, my unit was my family. We became friends, brothers, and sisters; we all left our families halfway across the world and formed new ones in the wake. When I came back, I left the family that understood everything we went through together. I returned to my biological family who loved me but couldn’t possibly understand. I’d missed them so much, but I felt different — like in a way, I could no longer relate to them, or anyone.

My wife used to tell me that I came home, but I never really came home. In fact, although I was home, I’d never felt so alone in my life. In some ways, I’ll only really be comfortable “over there.” At least my comrades were by my side, understood and helped me when times were hard, and relied on my strength as well. Sometimes, I wonder why I was lucky enough to come back and others weren’t. Nobody knew when the reaper was coming, but we had to be ready for him any day, without warning.

Finally, we landed in Fort Lewis Washington. I stood up and looked down. I had all of my limbs. I finally made it. When I stepped out of the plane and down the stairs, there were a lot of people calling us baby and women killers and throwing trash and other things at us. I turned around thinking I am ready to go back to Vietnam. But I thought, I can get through this also. My wife saved my life when I got home. She stuck with me through many tiring nights and saw something deep down inside of me that she knew I had that would hopefully surface soon. She saw sides of me that nobody could ever imagine. By the way, that pregnant girl back in 1969, is still with me. In a few short months, we will be married 53 years. Wow. Can you imagine that? I sure can’t.

I remember I applied for many city and county jobs when I returned from war. They used to give veterans preference points. In other words, if you scored an 80 on their written test, they would give you 10 points for being a veteran and another 5 points for being a war veteran. Then I would get a total score of 95. I used to get 100 to 110 on most of the tests. Then, they would call us in and put give us a hiring number. I remember one city job; I was given #4 to be hired. A friend of mine was given a #10 on his. He went to Hawaii, and I went to Vietnam.

I remember throughout the interview I kept highlighting my success in terms of “we”. We did this, we did that. That’s what the military teaches you. Its success as a group, not as an individual. The interviewer would ask me what I would contribute. I never imagined that they would ask me that, so I had to change my thinking process.

When they called me in, they looked at my DD214 (Discharge information) form. Then they saw that I was in Vietnam. That changed their whole disposition. We were called baby and women killers by many. We supposedly were all crazy. They said they would call me. 3 days later they hired my friend with a #10 and did not call me back. I kept finding that was the case at other interviews. Then I smudged the discharge paper showing Vietnam overseas. When they said they could not read it, I told them that I was in Hawaii. They hired me on the spot. I didn’t take the job as I already had another. I was just curious what they would do.

The military prepares you for battle. They indoctrinate you into their way of life, but nobody teaches you basic things like how to write a resume or how to translate all of your skills and training you received in the military to get yourself a job. I am not saying that is a bad thing to teach and train you for battle. Just include resume writing and translate your skills to help you acquire employment.

The next time you see me, or any other veteran, shake our hands and thank us. It means a lot to us. Talk to us, be our friends, and listen —we have been so tough for so long, you might find us cocky, or proud, or arrogant, or self-centered. Please, be patient and understanding with us — sometimes, we don’t really fit in with everyone else, and this is just how we’ve adapted. And just like you, we are only people. We want the same things you do. To be happy. To be successful. To raise a family. To love, and to be loved. Any comments, email me at

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— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army / Vietnam,

1st Cav/9th Infantry


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