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Vietnam War Hero Finally Receives Silver Star

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan., Sept. 25, 2005 – A hero of the battle of Ia Drang, in Vietnam, finally received the Silver Star for his actions of Nov. 17, 1965.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Claudia Gooden and Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Gooden speak with Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers Sept. 24, just before Gooden received the Silver Star for actions at Ia Drang Valley, in Vietnam in 1965. Photo by Jim Garamone

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers pinned the award on retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Gooden during a ceremony here Sept. 24.

The chairman said that Gooden is one part of a long line of American warriors who make the words of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution mean something. "(The words) don't come to life unless people want to serve and are willing to sacrifice," he said.

The Battle of Ia Drang was the first major battle for the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. It was the subject of the book and movie "We were Soldiers Once ... and Young," by retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold Moore and then-UPI reporter Joe Galloway.

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Gooden was the assistant operations sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, during the battle. The unit was surrounded by large numbers of North Vietnamese regulars, and they were threatening to annihilate the soldiers in the landing zone.

A 122 mm rocket wounded Gooden early in the fight. "When I came to, I thought to myself, 'If I don't make it, I'm going to take a lot of them with me,'" he said.

He disregarded his wounds and attacked several enemy positions, temporarily opening a passage through the enemy lines. He rallied his fellow soldiers and established a defensive position. The unit repulsed a number of attacks, and Gooden led the men of the unit to a firebase two miles away.

Gooden, who retired from the Army in 1980, said he received notification that his award was approved four months ago. He wore his service blues for the ceremony. "I'm grateful for the privilege of having served my country," he said.

The battle for Ia Drang cost U.S. forces 151 soldiers killed, 122 wounded and four missing in action.

Contact Author

Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF

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