T.L. Gould served in the U.S. Navy from September 1968 to April 1971. He was an E3 Radioman and awarded the National Defense Ribbon. The author of How Do You Mend This Purple Heart, Gould shares with us his time serving in the US Navy.
What were your duties?
During the six months following boot camp the Navy trained me to operate ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications equipment and protocol. After graduation from radio school, I received orders for duty aboard the destroyer escort ship, USS Furse. It would have been an eight-month goodwill tour out of Norfolk, VA to the Mediterranean Sea and on to the Red Sea. However, I spent the next 15 months in the U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. due to a severe car accident. So, my MOS and duties were extremely interrupted. The core of my enlistment was spent recovering from the accident and sharing life with young Marines wounded in Vietnam, with whom I had the greatest honor to share some of my life’s most difficult and wonderful experiences.
What did you like most about serving?
Unexpectedly and to my surprise, and many others, I enjoyed boot camp. Prior to my enlistment I was pretty much direction-less in what I wanted to do in life. With seven children in the family and my dad as the one income earner, college was not an option. I knew at the time even if I had the most minuscule opportunity to go to college, I would have failed at it. Boot camp gave me the discipline and focus that I needed at that time and I went home on my first leave a very changed person—so much for the better.
What prompted you to serve?
My dad served in the Navy during WWII as a gunners mate both in the European Theater and the Pacific. He was wounded while serving in the Pacific defending his ship against Japanese aircraft near Okinawa and was awarded the Purple Heart. I also had two older brothers serving in the Navy at the time I enlisted. I can remember my mother placing the three Blue Star flags in the living room window.
What was some of the greatest challenges you faced?
Waking up in the Navy hospital after being unconscious for four days was a life-changing moment for me. Before enlisting in the Navy, I had “pledged” my enlistment to join the Marines with my best friend under the “Buddy System”. We would have more than likely served together in Vietnam. Instead, I elected for the Navy, so when I regained consciousness and saw the twenty or so wounded Marines on the ward, I was overcome with guilt and shame. The decision to back out on my best friend and the Marine Corps still haunts me today.
What was the most rewarding experience?
The most significant and rewarding experience was the ultimate acceptance by the guys in the hospital. I was a Navy non-combat so-and-so, and it was months before I could gain their respect and friendship. It culminated in their proclamation of making me an “Honorary Marine”.
Also, during my rehab months in the hospital, Q Ward, I was given light duty and I was assigned to the hospital’s Special Services department. It was my “job” to enlist 20 to 25 guys every Friday, Saturday and Sunday to attend Welcome Home functions sponsored by local VFW, American Legion, Knights of Columbus and other organizations. These events were clam bakes, picnics, fishing excursions and pot luck dinners. I took my responsibilities seriously and with the greatest gusto to ensure that the guys could get away from the boredom of the hospital and thoroughly enjoy themselves for a few hours.
What was the training and prep for your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)?
I attended basic electronics school in Great Lakes Naval Training Center and Radio School in Bainbridge, Maryland.
How did serving affect your family? Did they find their part of service rewarding?
My mother was very proud that she had three sons serving at the same time. With one son serving on a mine sweeper, one son serving in Vietnam and the third son recovering in a hospital from a car accident, we kept her emotions on a roller coaster.
What opportunities or advantages or disadvantages did you have after reentering civilian life?
The Navy gave me the maturity and discipline I needed to get my life in focus .I really don’t think I would have achieved that level of adulthood on my own—at least not by the time I was twenty-two. I graduated from the University of Akron, Akron, Ohio utilizing the G I Bill and then went on to obtain a Masters in Business Administration degree from Baldwin Wallace University, Berea, Ohio.
What is your advice to someone thinking about serving their country?
Think about it. Don’t shrug off the opportunity. Don’t look at the military as a last resort. More young men and women should be proud to serve this country—it has given us so much, so give something back. It may be only four years, but it’s something that lasts a lifetime, and no one can take that away.
How Can You Mend This Purple Heart
By T. L. Gould
“How Can You Mend This Purple Heart” peers inside the hearts and minds of amputees struggling to heal from the ravages of war, and chronicles a journey of love, redemption, sorrow and joy; a journey of pain and anger…and a journey of hope. But most of all, a journey of the human spirit and its triumph over the most impossible odds.
In this riveting first novel, author T.L. Gould draws upon his experience recovering in a military hospital to create a plain truth, no-holds-barred narrative, stark in its simplicity, detail and humor. From dressing changes and morphine drips to off-site forays under a fence and into neighborhood bars and brothels, Gould chronicles the precipitous journey to recovery of the men of Ward 2B: how they learned to walk again, to love again and to triumph over crippling injuries.
THANK YOU T.L. GOULD FOR YOUR SERVICE!