Bobby Goode’s dreams started right after he returned home from fighting in Korea. The vivid dreams were filled with the smell of gunpowder and cries for help.
At one point, he thrashed so hard to fend off the bayonets closing around him that he broke a window by his bed with a kick.
For the retired road construction foreman, coping with what he knew as “shell shock” was a private battle and one he didn’t admit to for more than 50 years. It was part pride, part shame.
“I didn’t want anyone to think I was a crybaby,” said Goode, 80, of Grovetown.
It’s only in recent years that he has sought professional help and opened up about his struggle with what’s known to today’s service members as post-traumatic stress disorder. Goode, who received Silver and Bronze Stars fighting in Vietnam and Korea, wants veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid a lifetime struggling with bad memories.
“Go get some help,” Goode said. “Don’t be so hard-headed.”
Though it’s still unclear why some service members are more affected than others by the sights of war, doctors have identified several factors that increase the chances of developing PTSD. Goode experienced several of those, including exposure to combat and witnessing a friend’s death.
A native of Spindale, N.C., Goode joined the Army in 1948 and was deployed to the growing conflict in the Korean peninsula in 1950 with a speciality in communications. Days after arriving, Goode survived a shell explosion that blew apart a friend only a few feet away. When he regained consciousness, Goode saw his lieutenant kicking the severed leg of his fallen comrade.
“When you see your friends shot and killed, that bothers you, that works on your mind,” Goode said.
Several incidents added to his survivor’s guilt, including a face-to-face encounter with a North Korean soldier and another shell that landed close to him while he was drying his socks and boots. In Vietnam, Goode survived an attack on the Da Nang Airbase while a direct hit from a rocket wiped out most of his platoon as they slept in their barracks.
“You see so many of your friends killed, but you got to forget it and go on,” Goode said.
If he wasn’t entirely successful at forgetting his memories, Goode was at least able to ignore them. By day, he went about his normal duties as a father, a husband, a supervisor at work. At times he grew edgy in crowds and jumped at loud noises, but it didn’t affect his ability to function.
Nighttime was a different story. At times, Goode would stay up late watching television for as long as he could, fearful of the inevitable dreams.
“You don’t know when you go to bed what you’re going to come up with,” Goode said. “It’ll be Korea one night, Vietnam the next.”
Goode was prescribed medication after seeking professional treatment, and that has helped abate the dreams somewhat. He is skeptical about further psychological treatment but sees the benefit of confronting PTSD early instead of living in denial.
“I would tell a young trooper, ‘Don’t be afraid to go (get help),’ ” Goode said. “They’re so many people like me that didn’t go.”