‘IT WAS BEAUTIFUL’

John Gould, 88 of Manistee, traveled with the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., last week to visit the various monuments. For Gould, finally getting to visit the World War II Memorial, was overwhelming. (Courtesy photo/Dave Bachman)

John Gould, 88 of Manistee, traveled with the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., last week to visit the various monuments. For Gould, finally getting to visit the World War II Memorial, was overwhelming. (Courtesy photo/Dave Bachman)

Manistee man who served in post-WWII Japan, visits historic D.C. memorials

 

MANISTEE – War can make the world really, really small.

It can pummel a giant blue marble that hula hoops the sun, into a claustrophobic tomb patched together with sorrow and scars.

John Gould, Jr., has seen the sorrow and scars of a world gone mad, and then gone mad again, and again. The 88-year-old Manistee man has touched the tombs of war not once, but three times – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

And though he’ll be quick to tell you he never saw battle, himself, make no mistake about it, he did gaze upon the ghosts of the battlefields of Japan, France, Korea, and Vietnam.

Gould would go on to serve more than 20 years with the U. S. Army in a career that spanned the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

Later, in civilian life, he would work in Washington, D.C.

Gould returned to the nation’s capitol two weeks ago to touch the bronze and marble tombs that commemorate and eulogize the aforementioned three wars, as well as other freedom-defining tombs and monuments.

It was a whirlwind visit.

One day Gould was at home in Manistee. The next day, he was at the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery, to name just a few, and then the very next day, he was back home in Manistee.

And if only for those three days a few weeks ago – especially Wednesday, June 8 – the world was small again, but for more peaceful, celebratory, and glorifying reasons.

John Gould and Dave Bachman make their way through the Lansing Airport (Courtesy Photo/Jennifer Smeltzer)

John Gould and Dave Bachman make their way through the Lansing Airport (Courtesy Photo/Jennifer Smeltzer)

‘IT WAS REALLY SOMETHING’

Gould and 62 alumni of the Greatest Generation and other veterans flew to Washington, D.C., as part of the storied Mid-Michigan Honor Flight program.

Honor Flight is a national program with dozens of state chapters that serve the veterans in their area.

Its purpose is to transport as many veterans as possible, free of charge, to Washington, D.C., so they can visit those monuments and memorials dedicated in honor of the wars they served in.

Each of the veterans were accompanied by a personal chaperone and for Gould, it was Manistee Chief of Police Dave Bachman who stood by his side throughout the day.

The memorial dedicated to those who served during World War II was constructed years after Gould and his wife moved away from Washington, D.C., in the mid-1970s.

“So, I never saw that one,” Gould said after he returned to Manistee. “I saw most of the others, but never the World War II Memorial. I couldn’t wait to see it and, oh my, it was really something. It’s beautiful, just beautiful. It was awesome.

“I think any veteran who qualifies to go with the Honor Flight, should make the trip. It’s a long day, flying out of Michigan in the morning, going to all those monuments throughout day, and then flying back to Michigan at night does make for a long day – a real long day.

With the Korean War Veterans Memorial behind him, John Gould makes his way around the Mall area of Washington, D.C.

With the Korean War Veterans Memorial behind him, John Gould makes his way around the Mall area of Washington, D.C.

“But it’s worth it,” Gould said. “To be able to share something like that with all those veterans, to be able to get to know them, to have a guy like Dave (Bachman) taking care of me the whole way and making sure I was okay and happy, oh my, it all just makes very special a day that I’ll never, ever forget.”

‘IT’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T FORGET’

It was Bachman’s second trip with the Honor Flight program, having made his first last year with a veteran from Lake City, Ray Modders.

Bachman, like all chaperones, pay their own way – only the veterans fly for free.

“It’s a spectacular thing they do,” he said of the Honor Flight program. “You see the looks on their faces – the veterans – and you see how they react when they see the monuments, it’s something you don’t forget.

“It’s a bit of work (being a chaperone). My job was to make sure all of John’s needs were met. They served us, we serve them.”

Bachman drove Gould to Michigan State University on the day before the flight, where the two stayed with other veterans overnight.

Along the way, and especially at the airport, residents – adults and children – gathered to wish the veterans well. Firefighters and police, as well as uniformed military personnel, also stood out in the crowds, and applauded the Honor Flight veterans.

“That was something special, all by itself,” Gould said of those who greeted them coming and going. “It chokes you up to see so many people wishing you well, and telling you ‘thanks for serving.’”

While in Washington, the veterans – loaded into three buses – toured the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam, Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns, and more.

John Gould happily poses for a picture with his nephew Jim Hubbard, and his wife Judy Hubbard, who live in nearby Frederick, MD.

John Gould happily poses for a picture with his nephew Jim Hubbard, and his wife Judy Hubbard, who live in nearby Frederick, MD.

The spectacular World War II Memorial includes two massive 43-foot triumphal arches – one dedicated to the war in the Pacific, and the other the war in the Atlantic and the war in Europe.

There are 56 pillars in the memorial – each reaching 17 feet high – that represent the 48 states in America at the start of the war, as well as the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, and commonwealths such as the Philippines, and more.

Gould made sure to get his picture taken standing near the Michigan pillar.

“Having lived near Washington for a while, and working there, I knew what the area had,” Gould said. “I used to visit a lot of the memorials, and I always found them to be special.

“But when I went back, and saw the World II Memorial for the very first time – it was why I wanted to go, to see it – and then to see all the other changes around the city, I just couldn’t believe.

“Everything is so beautiful, and has so much meaning,” he said. “I think everyone should visit Washington, especially the young people. Everyone should visit those monuments that have been dedicated to those people who fought so bravely for our country.”

‘SOMETIMES YOU GET CALLED TO SERVE’

In looking back at his globe-trotting military career, Gould recalled how he tried to enlist into the Army while World War II was being waged all around the world.

“It was the thing to do, everybody was doing it – volunteering,” Gould said. “I had just graduated from high school, but they thought I was a bit too small. They told me to come back when I got a bit bigger.”

By the time Gould finally did talk his way into a uniform, the bullets and bombs had been quieted for a few months – peace had finally come to the world.

“So, in 1946, they shipped me off to Japan to be part of the occupation force,” he said. “Lot of damage. Lot of ruin. You could see where the firebombs had done so much damage.

“But, for the most part, we had a job to do, and we did it, without getting shot at, or anything like that.”

Gould recalls traveling to Tokyo, and seeing the destruction in that highly-populated Japanese city.

“Much of the downtown area had been purposely missed in the bombings,” he told the News Advocate in 2007 when he was interviewed for a story that was included in the paper’s 60-part series on the Greatest Generation.

“They weren’t badly damaged. But the housing areas were wood construction, and those areas were pretty heavily damaged. The firestorms would just sweep through everything that was there, and it was very dense housing with a high population.”

A few years after the Korean War ended, Gould would be stationed there, too. He then served a year in Vietnam in 1968-69, after the Tet Offensive

“Like I said, I never faced any shooting, or anything like that, like the others did who fought during the war. I was grateful for that. But I also wish they wouldn’t have had to face any shooting, either.

“But, sometimes you get called to serve. You get called to protect those things you believe in, and live for. You step up, and volunteer. There are things in the world, worth fighting for.”

And when those “things” – freedom and liberty, to name just a few – are stifled, strangled and suffocated, the world can become a very, very small place. It can become, if not neutralized, a claustrophobic tomb.

Just ask John Gould, Jr.

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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