Vietnam vet survives chopper crash, receives honor 45 years later

Vietnam vet survives chopper crash, receives honor 45 years later

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Vietnam War veteran Robert Goolsby was given a well-deserved honor on Wednesday, as the former Army Captain from Columbus received a Purple Heart nearly 45 years late.

"I like 'Big Dude' for protecting our town," said Parker Robinson, Goolsby's young grandson.

During the Vietnam War, his crew called him Captain but now his grandchildren call him "Big Dude."

"And I call each one of them 'Little Dude,'" Robert Goolsby said.

While admiring their grandfather is nothing new, now they beam with pride as they gaze at his two new medals.

Enemy fire sent Goolsby's aircraft in a deadly downward spiral.

"When we hit the top of the trees, that knocked me out and the helicopter exploded again on the ground," he said. "My aircraft got hit and exploded, we were about 500 feet in the air, normally you do an auto-rotation but we lost hydraulics so we just fell like a rock."

The crash left him with a broken back and other gruesome injuries.

"It cut my lower jaw off, my nose, cut it off," he recalled. 

Two of the four men didn't survive.

"I made a mayday call going down, and one thing about pilots of any type of aircraft, or any branch of the service, a pilot gets in trouble and any pilot that hears that broadcast is there," said Goolsby.

That's when specialist Leonard Shepard jumped from another chopper to rescue the men, pulling them out their burning aircraft.

"We wouldn't have all those little, wonderful grandchildren running around," Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland said of their heroic efforts.

When Goolsby sought to get Purple Hearts for his crew a few years ago, he found out he had never officially received the honor. Goolsby was unofficially awarded the Purple Heart back in the 1970s, but a paperwork mix up prevented him from actually getting it.

Fellow veterans and lawmakers got involved nearly 45 years later, making Wendesday one of appreciation and pride.

"Thank you for being brave," said Cody Robinson, as he ran around the VFW Post Wednesday following the ceremony for his grandfather.

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