Friday, August 19, 2016

Forget Your Sign... What's Your Story?

Thought for the day: Ask people how they're doing, how's life? Everyone has a story, and you may be the one they want to tell it to. [author unknown]

From 1998 to 2004, CBS news had a segment called Everybody Has a Story, based on a visit to a random location within the United States, which was determined by the toss of a dart at a map. Once he arrived at that location, correspondent Steve Hartman would pick out a random name from the telephone directory, and do a story on someone who lived at that address. Much to his surprise, what started out in the beginning as a bit of a lark ended up unearthing terrific stories... some heart-warming, some heart-wrenching, and some downright funny. But always, always interesting.

Last weekend, this lucky gal didn't have to throw a single dart, and didn't have to hop on an airplane or bus to hear somebody's story. All I had to do was go to a flea market with Smarticus, who happened to be wearing a Vietnam vet cap. As often happens, a fellow vet spotted the cap, and he and a buddy approached to shake his hand and welcome him home. We stood chatting for some time, and this former Marine... this complete stranger who, for some reason, immediately felt like a long-time friend... made a point of telling me a story. He had some fun yanking my chain with some pure BS, too, but we had a good laugh over that. But this story... it was true, and like the thought for the day says, I guess I was the one he wanted to tell it to. 

A true man will listen to anyone, no matter how young or old the person. For everyone has a story to tell and a lesson to teach. [Ash Sweeney]

I'm not exactly a true man, but it was a true honor to hear his tale. Now, I'm gonna share it with you. Since he even told me how I could find more information about it online, I have a feeling he'd approve.


Considering what I'm about to tell you, this 1917 recruiting poster seems the perfect accompaniment. Although this true story isn't about a Marine riding a big cat, it IS about a near-deadly encounter with one. A tiger. A BIG 400-pound-plus tiger. In the middle of the night in the dark jungles of Vietnam.








On December 22, 1968, a team of Marines from the 3rd Recon hunkered down for the night, hoping dawn would bring more conducive conditions for extraction by helicopter. A couple of the guys took watch, while the others settled down on the ground and tried to catch some shut-eye.

In the middle of the night, they were awakened by Staff Sergeant Richard Goolden's blood-curdling screams.

To everybody's horror, Goolden's head was held fast in the mouth of an enormous tiger.

When one of the guys tried to beat the cat off of him, the tiger took off, and still holding Goolden in its jaws,  jumped down into a bomb
crater.

Bottom line, the Marines won. The whole team shot down into that crater to kill the cat... which had already killed another Marine the month before... and miraculously, they saved Goolden's life.

 Despite his serious wounds... our flea market friend said Goolden's tongue was nearly severed, his neck severely cut, and his head so torn up, his brain was exposed... the Staff Sergeant survived. Needless to say, he spent a looong time in the hospital, but he is still here to tell about it.

The Army may have had a Special Forces unit called the Tiger Force, but this young Marine, Staff Sergeant Richard Goolden, spent what must have felt like an eternity in the actual jaws of  a tiger.

If you'd like to see more photos, and read an article about this event, written by Sgt. Bob Morris, and published in the Northern Marine magazine in 1968, you can find it here

While doing research for this post, I also came across another really interesting piece, about some of the critters soldiers encountered in Vietnam. You can find that here

I also found out that SSgt Goolden, although initially told he would receive a Purple Heart... never received one. He got all of the other awards he earned, but there were no written orders for the Purple Heart, so he was denied that medal. The most recent article I found was from a few years back, when his daughter was still doing her darnedest to go through the proper channels to get him that medal. Evidently, receiving catastrophic wounds while in a war zone only counts if it happens at the hand of the enemy. Not at the jaws of a tiger.

Good news, though? Goolden, though scarred, both physically and mentally, is still going strong, and our flea market friend still has a beer or two with him every week. Alas, our flea market Marine never told us his name

 Just his story.

Maybe because that's the part he thought was most important.

There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them. [closing line for TV show Naked City, which aired from 1958-'63]

Just curious. Do complete strangers ever tell you their stories? This certainly isn't the first time it's happened to me... and ya know, I certainly hope it isn't the last.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

60 comments:

  1. Oh yes, people tell me their stories. And I am grateful for the privilege, even when they tug on my heart strings. If they hurt me, how much more they must hurt the people with first hand experience.
    Loved these stories. Thank you - and the nameless Marine.

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    1. Why am I not surprised? Even from clear across the world and via the Internet, you come across as a very empathetic person.

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    2. Thank you so much for your lovely, lovely comment on my last post.

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    3. You're welcome. I meant every single word.

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  2. That's a story worth the telling for sure. my ex #1 was in Vietnam, but I've never heard any of his stories.He buried them in his subconscious where they manifested as nightmares for several years, nightmares I didn't dare wake him from after the first time when he came up punching. I did hear from him that he saw his brother get shot and couldn't go to help him as they were under fire themselves. The brother survived.
    I've heard a few stories from people at my checkout, but mostly only parts of stories as there really isn't time to chat when people are queueing up.

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    1. Smarticus had more than his share of Vietnam-induced issues when he came home, too. I don't know how many alarm clocks he killed in the middle of the night by lashing out with his fist. (I'm eternally grateful that he never lashed out on my side of the bed.) For many years, he couldn't talk about Nam, but with time, he's found it somewhat easier. But those demons will never ever completely go away.

      Oh darn, only hearing partial stories is like getting an appetizer, but no main course. :)

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  3. Moving story. I've heard many from those turbulent years but none included tigers. That was something I heard 1st when Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy was dragged offstage by a tiger 10+ years ago. Stories I hear now are from people who still feel some emotional impact from something that happened long ago --I do too. There are pivotal incidences in all lives that influence what comes after. I listen, and that's enough --but Goolden certainly deserves The Purple Heart.

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    1. I asked Smarticus, and he said he saw tiger tracks numerous times, but never encountered one of them. (Thank goodness!) As far as I know, the tiger in this story is the only one who attacked and of our soldiers during that time. Research only turned up the two incidents, both attributed to the same cat.

      I think he should get the Purple Heart, too, especially since it means so much to him. Others have received the medal for far less.

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  4. Quite a moving story indeed. We all have a story. Everyone, no matter who. I did not know about this segment in the late 90s. Maybe I can Youtube it!

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    1. You should be able to find some of those old news story segments without any trouble. (Three cheers for YouTube!)

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  5. Brilliant story. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

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  6. Wow, now that is quite a story! That Sgt. Golden lived to tell it is a miracle. Bless all those soldiers who rescued him from the certain jaws of death. So sad, though, that he did not get his Purple Heart.

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    1. I know. That sergeant is one lucky man. I have mixed feelings about the Purple Heart. I understand the supposed criteria about the injury being inflicted in combat by an enemy force, but I also know a guy who got a Purple Heart for breaking an ankle while trying to stop a barroom brawl in Germany. (He was an MP.)

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  7. I work at a pawn shop so I hear lots of stories. Most unfortunately are just plain pathetic from people who cannot get their shite together and have no filters. The interesting stories generally come from the older people (40+) because they know which stories to tell and which stories not to - an important difference imo. I'm glad that dude got rescued by his buddies but I can't help feeling a little sorry for the tiger. He was just doing what tigers do.

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    1. I can imagine what kind of stories you hear on your job. I used to hear some of the same sort when I volunteered at the soup kitchen.

      But, HEY!!! You define "older people" as someone over forty??? Holy moley, by that definition, my CHILDREN are "older people." Sheesh. To me, you've gotta be at least ninety to be considered old. :)

      I know what you mean about the tiger, but not all tigers are man-killers. Once they've tasted human blood, they become much more dangerous to all humans in the area.

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  8. I've heard many a story indeed at my feed. Most rather umm lame as people tend to whine a bit much. But wow, now that is a story. Quite the tiger tail it was haha Everyone has a story indeed.

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    1. HA! Yep, it was a tiger tail, indeed. (But the TEETH were the problem...)

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  9. Oh yes, love the stories. No matter the situation when folks come to the house, I'm talking the cable guy, the plumber, or the electrician. All full of stories. Not as exciting as a tiger with a soldiers head in his mouth, but stories. :) Like the guy that broke out in a sweat and almost fainted waiting for his colonoscopy. (He had a fear of guts?) Or the guy who had to go to court to earn the right to carry his gun because he had a fake sword in his car during a traffic stop. But my favorite has to be the adventures of the exterminator and the latest bug he's fought! LOL
    Your story, or the ex-marine's beats the heck out of all those. :)

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    1. HA! We've always been that way with workmen and salesmen who come to our house, too. They end up sitting around, talking with us. A couple of LDS missionaries used to stop by to chat with me regularly, long after they knew I had no intention of converting to their religion. We once ended up shooting pool with a guy who was trying to sell us a vacuum cleaner. The foolish man may have been enjoying our company, but I doubt if HIS company was impressed with him for letting us have the machine for such a steal... based on us beating him on the pool table. Actually, it probably came out of his own pocket. (But what kinda guy challenges people to a game on their OWN table...?)

      Those stories you were told sound pretty interesting, too. Who knows? Maybe some of those bugs... enlarged, of course... may even find their way into one of your books someday.

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  10. Quite a tale. Wow. Yes, people talk to me. I must have an approachable face, and I do listen. Being a writer, I find the true stories are stuff I couldn't make up if I wanted to.
    Enjoy your weekend. We got some rain here and cooler. Rah!

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    1. Hmmm, when our kids were younger, they used to tease me that I had the word SUCKER written on my forehead, because I got hit up to do every kind of volunteer job imaginable. (Another one of those gals who "cain't say no.") Maybe now, people tell us their stories because we have the word WRITER emblazoned on our foreheads? (Invisible to all but those who seek it...)

      We got a good bit of rain the other night here, too. Thank Goodness. Not enough to drag us out of the drought, but we sure did appreciate it. Well, most of us did... our cats hated it.

      Have a super weekend.

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  11. I think most people instinctively know who is a good listener with a warm, receptive personality - which makes them feel comfortable in sharing their stories.

    That is an incredibly horrifying story! It's a miracle that Goolden survived, and he certainly wouldn't have if it wasn't for the courage of the Marines who rescued him.
    It's a shame that he couldn't get the Purple Heart, but I can understand the reasoning. The tiger was an enemy in combat, but not exactly a human one.....

    This reminded me of a movie I once saw about a notorious killer tiger in India but I can't remember the title.

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    1. I like your analysis. It's nice to think strangers might possibly regard me as warm and receptive, because that's what I aspire to be. (And here Smarticus thought the guy was just hitting on me... HA!)

      Tigers are incredibly beautiful animals, but when they acquire the adjective "killer," they also become incredibly dangerous.

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  12. Wow, what a story! That poor man. I am happy he survived, but I can't imagine the terror he felt while it was happening.

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    1. Yeah, the reality of what he woke up had to be a million times worth than any nightmare he might have been having.

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  13. It's good he shared this story and that you shared it with us. Stories are meant to be shared so here's hoping for lots more. People need to be heard, I'm glad you listen, there aren't enough people who do.

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    1. Listening is easy; hearing is more of a problem. :)

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  14. I've never had strangers share stories with me. It much feel like such an honor that this guy wanted to share with you. This is amazing and it's hard to imagine anything more terrifying than being in the jaws of a tiger. What an amazing tale.

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    1. Yeah, I can only imagine how horrifying the experience must have been. I wouldn't be surprised if Goolden still has nightmares about it.

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  15. Yikes! What a nightmare to live through. I'm amazed Goolden managed to survive that! Wow...

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  16. I, too, was just wondering how many times years later he'd wake up in the middle of the night, feeling those teeth on his neck..ugh. What an experience to go through!

    I don't think people tend to tell me their stories all the time (and sometimes it's just the kind of people who'd tell a stranger their most intimate problems!), but it has happened. I think I was most surprised about when my doctor started talking about stuff during my annual checkup. Kinda interesting seeing his perspective, though.

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    1. I think the odds are pretty good he's had a LOT of nightmares over the years.

      I used to have a doctor years ago who started treating my visits like social calls. He'd close the door and settle down for a chat... I'm talking an hour or so... while other patients were still waiting to be seen. It kinda freaked me out. So much so, I switched doctors.

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  17. Susan what an interesting and very scary story... how horrifying to nearly die from a tiger... I am grateful I never had to deal with something like that and so happy to read that he is okay and survived this attack ...

    As far as hearing people's stories, I have heard many due to the fact that I talk to a lot of people... I love to talk and people open up to me. Hearing many of these stories shows me how strong people are getting through so many trials and become even stronger... it's inspirational xox

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    1. Yeah, compared to being dragged off by a tiger, I've got nothing to complain about.

      Listening to other people's stories really can be inspirational, and can help us put our own lives into perspective.

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  18. Oh My Goodness.
    What a story. I am so happy to hear all these wonderful men met somewhere at a flea market and found friends.

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

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  19. HI Susan,

    WOW, that is some story.... Poor guy.. I never thought Tigers attacked men...unless it was hungry... so sad. But what an amazing story,

    Yes, people do tell me their stories often. I should jot them down for future reference.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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    1. Hi-ya.

      I don't know exactly what predicates a tiger to attack a human for the first time, but once they've tasted human blood, they invariably want more.

      Yes, you should jot those stories down! No telling when they might come in handy.

      You have a super weekend, too!

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  20. Just...wow. Not for nothing, but on Monday, I'm posting one of my "stories." Nothing as incredible as this, but something that has turned into family folklore...

    Hope you are well, Susan!

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    1. Yeah, it is a kind of WOW story, isn't it? I'll be sure to stop by your blog on Monday to see your family folklore tale. Looking forward to it.

      I hope you're well, too. :)

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  21. Holy cannoli! That is intense! As if those men didn't already have enough to worry about, they have to go and add being eaten alive by a tiger to the list. Amazing Sergeant Goolden pulled through.

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    1. I know! I thought the debilitating heat, booby traps, snipers, leeches, and poisonous snakes were bad enough. I hadn't even considered the possibility of beaten eaten by a tiger.

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  22. Aside from being stunned (tiger attack?!?!?!), moreover, I'm incredibly touched by your example, Susan. Somehow, I supposed evoking another's story would be harder.

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    1. You'd be surprised at easy it is to evoke stories. Most people have a need to tell them; all they need is a willing listener.

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  23. Wow, what an incredible story. Those guys really were cut of a different cloth, weren't they? Meanwhile, I can get a paper cut and still have to take some aspirin to tone down the overwhelming agony.

    Honestly, I love when strangers talk to me, but with how everyone is so closed off nowadays... that doesn't happen all that often. It's kinda sad.

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    1. Yeah, I guess they were cut from a different cloth, in a way, but then again, I think the military... especially when serving in combat... has a way of changing one's cloth dramatically.

      If you think strangers talk less to you for some reason, maybe it's because you're a young fella. Me? I'm a safe old broad. :)

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  24. Amazing story! Every once in a while someone will tell me their story. It is always interesting when they do.

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    1. Yeah, kinda like that line from the Forrest Gump movie, where ya "never know what you're gonna get." :)

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  25. Yes. Everyone has a story. People seem to like to tell me their stories. When I'm standing in line, waiting to check out, they start telling me their stories. Every time I'm on an airplane, the person who is sitting next to me starts telling their story. I'm thinking I must be a story magnet.

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    1. Me, too. But if we've gotta be a magnet for anything, attracting people and their stories would be my first choice. And it's much better than my other magnetic attraction: bugs, bugs, and more bugs. :)

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  26. Super awesome. Not many can say they've been in the jaws of a tiger and lived. I imagine not many would want to say that either. *raises hand* I think the key to hearing people's amazing stories is making the time to listen, which is rare these days with how preoccupied we've become, eh? (Thanks, technology.)

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    1. You've got that right. He may be the only person on earth who can make that claim, but I don't think anyone would want to share the distinction with him.

      Hmmm, you could be right again about technology interfering with hearing those stories. Not a problem for me, because I don't have (and don't want) a cellphone. :)

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  27. Hi Susan - what an extraordinary story ... fascinating. But your photo of the tiger's mouth ... very clean and healthy and scary - popping out at us ...

    Yup we do connect with people and we can still find friends - pity about not catching his name ... but I guess as you say the tale was the important bit ... wonderful: but horrific for those involved - til the guys won and Goolden amazingly survived - cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi-ya, Hilary.

      Isn't that picture super? I found it on Morguefile.com. :)

      Cheers back atcha.

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