View Full Version : Back from Iraq

05-21-08, 06:00 AM
Back from Iraq
by JOEL GALLOB - Ravalli Republic

Nineteen-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Chad Goodnight came back to Montana Saturday to a reception of about three dozen friends of his family, including the Bitterroot and Missoula area members of the Harley-Davidson Owners Group (HOG) of Missoula, the Patriot Guard Riders and back in Stevensville, the American Legion.

He was met by nearly a dozen people, including his parents Steven and Cheryl Goodnight, and almost as many American flags, in the lobby at the Missoula Airport.

“We thought we’d invite a few friends,” Chad’s mother told him, before hugging him.

He was back after nearly seven months in Iraq.

The motorized pilgrimage to the airport began from the north Town Pump in Hamilton, where 22 Bitterroot Valley HOG members assembled. They reached the airport shortly after the Missoula HOG members and the area’s Patriot Guard Riders.

Just outside the airport terminal, the young soldier’s father gave him a Harley-Davidson T-shirt and a leather riding vest, which the Hamilton High School grad promptly put on.

Stephen Goodnight told the gathering outside the terminal “we asked Chad what he wanted for Christmas, and he said ‘the Marines give me everything we need.’

So I said, ‘what can I get you to make your life better?’ and he said, ‘a HOG membership.’ So we’ve done that.”

When the group got to Stevensville, the 30-plus bikers stopped at the park north of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Immediately south, in the little Rose Garden, the American Legion Ft. Owen Post 94 had just completed their formal Armed Services Day event at the roughly seven-foot high white wall with the names of local youth who have served or are serving in the War on Terror.

Jerry Esmay, a former commander of Post 94, said he’d hoped its event and Goodnights’ arrival would coincide.

It came fairly close, and minutes after Goodnight and the motorized entourage arrived, two U.S. helicopters flew overhead. That had been arranged before the Legion was aware of the Goodnights’ plans for the day, but everyone - older gentlemen in formal Legion dress and bikers, many themselves veterans but in very different clothing - waved to the choppers.

Esmay handed Chad an American Legion Certificate of Gratitude for his “honorable choice to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in its war on terror,” adding that “freedom comes with a heavy price.”

Goodnight said he started boot camp with the Marine Corps on July 24, 2006.

“I always knew I wanted to join some type of military service,” he said. “I went right from high school to boot camp.”

In Iraq, he went to Cop Rawah, the name for a town and the U.S. base nearby. After that, he went to Cop Ellis, in central Iraq. This town, he said, is nearer to Syria than to any other bordering country. The Marines in that town, as at Cop Rawah, were stationed outside town, Goodnight said, “keeping track of who was coming in and who was going out.”

Later, the Marines moved his battery to Roupa, near what they called Korean Village, a facility where Marines and other military service personnel are stationed.

Goodnight said he didn’t see combat, but on two occasions saw “indirect fire,” rockets or mortars coming in at Roupa.

“We were originally to be a firing battery, providing support and illumination at night, and then we did base guarding. In the last month, we went to Roupa, and took over the AO (area of operations) there.”

That, he explained, involved working at traffic control points.

“We’d search vehicles coming into the town, identify people on the wanted list or people who had weapons they were not supposed to have,” he said.

In Iraq, everyone is allowed an AK-47 and one round for it, he said.

He was not involved in any arrests, but he was involved in transporting those arrested to Korean Village.

There, he said, “they’d question them, fly them out and send them out and eventually they’d find their way home.”

Goodnight is signed up for four years active duty and then four years inactive duty with the National Guard.

That means he will spend about two years overseas, and the Guard will be able to call him for further service if needed. But as an inactive Guard member, he will spend less time in training while back home than he would if an active Guard member.

For now, he said, “I have 24 days on this current leave period. Other (leave periods) will depend on how much time I’ve saved” while in active service.

Reporter Joel Gallob can be reached at jgallob@ravallirepublic.com or at 363-3300.