world war ii vet honored

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
ROCKWELL ó Luther Goodman thought he was headed to a belated Christmas celebration Sunday afternoon.
After all, Goodman, 88, has been in the Hefner VA Medical Center a fair amount since early December, recovering from a blood clot in his left leg.
Because of his medical problems, Goodman didn’t have much of an opportunity to celebrate Christmas with family members.
But instead of going to a holiday celebration, Goodman, who served in the Army during the latter stages of World War II, was honored Sunday with a surprise celebration at Rockwell Amvets Post 845.
He was presented an American flag that had been flown in an F-16 Viper jet as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During Sunday’s festivities, in addition to receiving the flag, ample quantities of hugs and kisses were bestowed upon Goodman.
“It doesn’t take much to pull one over on me,” he said, laughing as he referred to the fact that family members convinced him he was going to a Christmas celebration.
Despite his age, a slight loss of hearing and his recent medical problems, Goodman remains active and alert.
He joked and smiled with the close to 100 people who attended Sunday’s event.
Goodman’s daughter, Alice Sells, said that when she was young, her father loved to share stories of his service in the second world war.
Little has changed about that, she said.
“He still likes to talk about it,” Sells said. “He was telling us war stories before we came over here today.”
Alice’s husband, Chris Sells, an Air Force master sergeant who has served since 1983, was the individual responsible for the flag that was presented Sunday to Goodman.
The flag was in the cockpit of a jet piloted by Maj. Dave Twister on a combat mission on June 10, 2007.
According to Chris Sells, who is in the midst of a tour of duty in Iraq, a flag to honor a World War II veteran can be flown in the cockpit of a fighter jet. He said the process is relatively simple.
“I purchased the flag and took it to the fighter squadron,” Sells said. “It’s not hard to do.”
Sells will be returning to Iraq Wednesday to complete a tour of duty that ends in May.
Cathy Goodman, Luther’s granddaughter-in-law who is a disabled Army veteran who served in the first Gulf War, said the process of planning Sunday’s get-together was fairly complicated.
She said one individual was responsible for the dessert and another for reserving the Amvet post. Someone else took the responsibility of just about everything else involved in the luncheon.
It all came together well.
“It was all done kind of behind his back,” Cathy said of Luther Goodman.
Goodman almost got through World War II without having to serve. He was drafted in August 1944 despite already having a wife and young son.
In March 1945, Goodman went to Europe as part of the 1st Army.
The Germans were being pushed back to Berlin by a combined effort of the Americans and Russians.
Goodman said the Germans wanted to surrender to the Americans if at all possible because they’d been told that if they were taken prisoner by the Russians, they’d be beheaded.
Goodman said the people of the towns they inhabited welcomed them. He said they had little food and used cigarettes like money.
Goodman said he gave one woman a pack of cigarettes for washing his clothes and she told him she was going to exchange them for milk for her daughter.
Goodman said it wasn’t unusual for Germans to surrender to him and his comrades as they were going from building to building in small villages.
He said the prisoners could be a problem because the Americans were fighting to secure the towns and didn’t have time to deal with those who were surrendering to them.
One day, Goodman and his comrades had crawled into a foxhole. A German hand grenade (known as a “potato masher”) fell into the hole. Goodman grabbed it and threw it seconds before it exploded.
On another day, Goodman was in the midst of fighting when he felt something hot strike his ear. Blood began oozing down his neck. He’d been shot.
“It was some nasty fighting,” Goodman recalled Sunday
The flag that Sells presented to Goodman wasn’t the only one he had flown on combat missions.
In addition to that aforementioned flag, Sells had a flag flown in honor of the Hefner VA Medical Center. It will be presented to officials there for their treatment of veterans.
Yet another flag that Sells purchased and had flown will be presented to Amvets Post 845 for display.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or