Vietnam War Vet Shares Memories with EveryStep


March 29 is Vietnam War Veterans Day. The date is appropriate, as March 29, 1973, was the day Vietnam was disestablished and the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. It was also around this same day Hanoi released the last of its acknowledged prisoners of war.

Robert (Bob) Goodwin is a Vietnam veteran who served his county with pride. Like many of his generation, he witnessed American discord about the war. Many Vietnam veterans are hesitant to talk about their service for this reason. Bob, who is receiving EveryStep Hospice care from the Council Bluffs team, agreed to share his experiences. He remembers both the sobering moments of his military career, along with the lighter aspects that brought him comfort.

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Graduating high school in 1952, Bob joined the Air Force in 1957, entering the Aviation Cadets program. After flight training in Florida, he went to Texas and was then deployed to Germany. While there, he was in a car accident that caused him to lose consciousness. Because of this, he was no longer cleared to fly at high altitudes. Bob was reassigned to ground transportation and returned to the states in 1959, where he received additional training, as well as completing several TDY assignments. In 1962, he was assigned to Guam. While there, Typhoon Karen devastated the island with wind gusts estimated up to 170 mph. Ninety-five percent of homes were damaged or destroyed, leaving at least 45,000 people homeless. Bob helped prepare the base prior to the typhoon.

“I noticed there were a bunch of water tanks in the field, and they were rusty. They were supposed to be full of potable water, so I arranged with the vehicle maintenance guy to have each of these tanks restored, filled with potable water, and checked monthly to make sure the water was pure,” said Bob. “When the typhoon wiped out the island’s electricity, the water supply was also unavailable. Thanks to those tanks, we had water.” Bob’s actions saved the base and provided water for the island’s residents, as well.

Bob also served at the Korat Royal Air Force Base in Thailand, the last airstrip for U.S. bombers flying to North Vietnam. “Fighter pilots had to fly 100 missions and then they could go home,” remembers Robert. “I graduated from flying school with one of the pilots that came through Korat. He headed out on his 99th mission and was shot down. It was a dangerous corridor – you could be shot down at any time heading toward North Vietnam, or returning to our base.”

While in Thailand, Bob slept in a “hooch,” a canvas and thatched roof building used as a barracks. His hooch was close to the end of the airstrip, and he slept through planes landing and taking off. “You learn to do that - but then you can wake up at a moment. It's like having a newborn. You know you sleep like the dead, but if you hear them cry, you're immediately up and ready.”

Bob separated out from the Air Force in 1969. He joined the Nebraska 43rd Army National Guard Band in 1981, where he served 11 
years as a percussionist. The band traveled around the country, playing at the West Point Military Academy, as well as during the inaugural parade for President George H.W. Bush in 1989. 

Bob is in the care of EveryStep Hospice’s Council Bluffs team for dementia, cardiac issues and COPD at his assisted living home. “It’s an extra pair of eyes and additional people to talk to about Bob’s ever-changing conditions. I really appreciate that,” says Bob’s wife, Edie. “I had developed an ulcer while Bob was still at home. It was the constant worry, watching and monitoring. Bob had started on hospice services while he was at home, so these gals were familiar when he made the move to assisted living. Hospice has provided consistent, quality care for Bob and ongoing support for me. We can’t thank them enough.” 

EveryStep Hospice provides care to people wherever they call home, including nursing facilities and assisted living. To learn more about EveryStep Hospice, visit you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.