Just one soldier among thousands, Robert Good left the peace of Southern California in 1966 for the jungle of South Vietnam, never fully knowing what he was about to encounter, yet never having a choice to change it.
He was 19 years old, a semester off from Arizona State University and living the good life when he got the oft dreaded, and less-than-personal, letter from Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Part of me was sort of waiting for it and part of me was hoping my number wouldn’t be selected,” said Good.
But few, if any, were that lucky.
Before he could blink, the soon-to-be sergeant of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division was being thrust around the nation to different bases; nine full months of combat training was enough for the Army to deem him ready for battle.
Referring to whether his training was enough Good said, “We got tactics down, discipline down, combat training, shooting, all sufficiently so … In terms of being prepared for the Vietnam jungle, no.”
While in Vietnam, morale was high among the troops. Most had no clue of the antiwar sentiment beginning to boil back home, but living everyday from morning to night was a battle in itself in Vietnam.
“This was before we had the political influence from the U.S.,” said Good, “but we had to deal with booby traps, combat and friends getting killed.”
Keeping up the confidence of the soldiers, which they managed, was key to their own survival, yet he’s not sure how they did it.
“When you get in a combat zone, since your life is threatened every day, your focus comes in real tight,” said Good.
Humor, he said, also helped keep up everyone’s spirits.
Good’s tour started in January of 1967 and ended exactly one year later. He was in two major battles during that time and lost many around him.
In one battle alone, 45 soldiers were lost. Good is still emotional about his time spent in Vietnam, but understood the importance of telling the stories.
As Robert was serving his time overseas, back home the nation had begun a revolution. The antiwar sentiment became as much of a movement as it did a fad. It bled into the music and television as well as Congress and the presidency. Peace signs will forever be identified with the 1960’s as much as the Beatles and Woodstock.
Parts of the war could obviously be deemed open for criticism. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who served throughout the majority of the ‘60’s, later admitted to the major mistake of going into Vietnam.
Good left for war with full support of the citizens and the nation, but came back to experience harsh negativity. Protesters chanting “baby killers,” including people who spit on him, tarnished his arrival at the airport.
However, one man was standing amid the protestors with open arms, literally.
“I was embraced by a guy that somehow knew I was there, that I had in fact saved his life on June 19th, 1967 out on a battlefield,” said Good.
The man had been involved in an ambush. Good and his fellow troops went to the edge of the battlefield, close to the Vietcong, and dragged the men off to safety.
“One of those guys was there at that airport when I landed … That was probably the most gratifying part of the war for me, was the hug from that guy. It was huge.”
Robert’s tour ended in January of 1968. And since the war and the protestors, he has lived a more than satisfactory life.
He first found work in the engineering world, but finished his career after thirty-plus years in the LAPD.
He has three children and spends his time golfing and playing with his grandchildren.
Good says he is happy in life, which many other vets cannot say for themselves, but claims that he can never forget the war and how it has affected him. He is more than proud for serving his country and thinks others should as well, if given the opportunity.
“I am glad I had the opportunity to serve my country, but I definitely wouldn’t do it again,” said Good, with a smile and a laugh.