The Camden 28

PBS Premiere: Sept. 11, 2007Check the broadcast schedule »

Excerpt: From the Trial of the Camden 28

Good: Losing Paul in Vietnam

Q. Also, then, going back a bit, was there a particular event that our family had to face in the summer of '67 that sort of had a profound effect on all of us?

A. Yes.

Q. Would you like to tell us about that a little bit?

A. Yes. I would say there was a particular event. Your brother Paul, who is the seventh child, and the one next to you, and we thought of -- Paul and Bobby, we thought of almost like one person. They slept together and they grew up together. When one would -- you would see one outside, you would see the other one playing, two towheaded boys and a family. It's Rosemary, Betty, Jane and Dorothy; and it was Paul and Bobby.

So Paul was drafted in the summer -- I mean in the year of '66. He got out of high school. He was following the trade of his father being a carpenter, and in the summer of '65 Bobby graduated -- I mean '67 Bobby graduated from four years in the seminary and Jimmy graduated the same month from Loyola in Chicago.

Here was Paul going to Vietnam. So Dad and I took him to the airport in Pittsburg, first plane ride. So this was like six years ago yesterday, we took him on a plane.

I really wasn't worried because we had lost our oldest boy in an automobile accident, Matthew.

I don't know, I guess I just must have thought the Lord wouldn't take another child from us. I really didn't worry about Paul. About six weeks after Paul left, it was June 19, I received a letter from him, a beautiful letter telling us -- telling his father -- I had a brother Paul in Hawaii -- he was telling his father in his letter that he thought he should take me to Hawaii after all these years. We worked hard, had a large family. We had taken foster children into our home, various times took care of them. So we really thought that we deserved a vacation and that when he was going to take his R&R (which is rest and relaxation) from the war, that he was going to Hawaii and visit his uncle Paul and the relatives that we have there.

So I read the letter and set it down on the table where your dad always comes in at night and sits, and went out and prepared dinner, and started to prepare dinner.

About 2 o'clock I began to feel this terrible sadness. I couldn't explain it. I just knew that all of a sudden something was wrong.

So your dad got home about 4:30, and 5 o'clock I went into the room and I said, "John, did you read Paul's letter?"

He said, "Yes."

I said, "What did you think of it?"

He said, "Well, are we ready to go to Hawaii?"

I said, "Do you think he's all right?"

He said, "Why, sure, he's all right."

I said, "No, I think something has happened to him."

That was Monday, June the 19th.

So later in the evening, my oldest daughter Rosemary -- lives two doors away from us -- I said to her, "Rosemary, how does the Army let you know when something has happened?"

She said, "Why, Mom?"

"I think something has happened to Paul."

She said, "Well, I think an Army officer comes and tell you."

So from that moment on, I knew that man would be coming. I could just imagine that I would see him. We have a long kind of driveway and everybody pulls up to the back of the house where our kitchen is. I had a feeling I would see him walking.

So all day Tuesday I had this feeling. Wednesday my oldest son, John, came out and I wanted to tell him. I didn't want him to leave me. I wanted to tell him to stay with me, that I felt that this man was actually looking for us and I couldn't get out.

So he left and my daughter Marilyn was cleaning out the refrigerator and I heard a car door slam. I had to look up over the kitchen window and sure enough it was the Army officer already walking up the driveway.

He got out of his car down the end of the drive.

So I said to Marilyn, "My God, the Army officer is here to tell us about Paul."

She said, "What is the matter with Paul, Mom?"

I hadn't told her. I just told Rosemary.

I said, "He's gone."

By that time the man was at the door. It was summer and the screen door was open.

He said, "Is this the home of John Good?"

I said, "Yes, come in, I've been expecting you."

So I got a little excited, and I said, "Do you care if I call my daughter?'

He said, "Don't get excited, Mrs. Good, he's just missing in action."

I said, "No, he's gone."

So my daughter came over, and he read this to us, about missing in action, and he didn't know anything about it, when it had happened, when he was last seen or anything like that. And I told him it happened Monday.

So this was Wednesday, and he said that they'd let us know that within an hour, the time he'd been found dead or alive, that we would know.

So on Friday morning, I said to the children, "Let's go to Mass this morning." So Bobby went, and Marilyn and Rosemary. We went to Mass.

And after I received communion, I asked Our Lord if he would see to it that we heard about Paul -- that I wanted his body, and I wanted to bury him besides his brother.

So we got home and about 3:30 that afternoon, the Army officer came back, and he said that he would have to read this telegram or this message in the presence of my husband. So he got called home from work, and, you know, "The Army regrets to inform you that your son Paul was killed by hostile action."

So this is what kind of happens. You know, a lot of people -- this message was received by almost 60,000 parents, but I think that we forget that it's just us. We just remember, think of our own.

We don't stop and think of every mother who has the same kind of a heart, and indeed all these people, children and people, that were killed in Vietnam were suffering something of what our family was suffering.

So then we waited for two weeks. July the 1st our boy came home. We had to go out to the airport. A lot of his friends were there. And they brought his body back. And I don't -- never have been able to figure out to this day that my son was killed. On July 19th we were able to view his body, which is very unusual, because they say that in the heat of the jungle, which he was killed in the Mekong Delta, that 24 hours they are just not able to be viewed. But we were able to view his body. He was buried on July the 3rd, military funeral.

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