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.
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
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.
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.