SIDNEY — “Being a member of a Gold Star family is an honor, but at times, the price you pay to do so seems to be way too much.”
These words spoken by Ed Gold, younger brother of Sgt. Robert J. Gold resonate in the hearts and minds of everyone who remembers the former Sidney resident and hero “Bob” Gold who died in combat in Vietnam on Feb. 26, 1967.
Gold was recently inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in Columbus on May 3, 2019. Gold was honored along with 21 other inductees from the U.S Army, U.S Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps, who served in conflicts in the Civil War (4 inductees), Vietnam, and the Middle East. There were two recipients from Shelby County, Gold and Gary W. Gross, of Jackson Center. Nine posthumous awards were presented including those for Gold and Gross.
Now in its 20th year, the hall of fame honors both veterans and active duty personnel in an annual ceremony held at the State House in Columbus, Ohio. Nominees must be from the State of Ohio or have lived in Ohio when mustered into the military and must have received a medal for valor for a specific act of bravery and heroism in combat. Gold was cited for bravery and was on a list to receive a Bronze Star with a “V” device (for Valor) but never officially received his award after his time of death as is typically mandated.
The document authorizing his award lay silent in Gold’s 201 personnel file for 44 years after his death before being discovered by coincidence. In 2012, the company historian from the 4th Infantry Division learned about the oversight of Gold’s award while doing some research that led to a curiosity as to how Gold’s presentation ceremony was handled.
He called Carleen Pettit, who was Bob Gold’s wife at the time of his passing, and said, “This is Bill Coneau, I’m calling to ask if you can inform me about the details leading up to Bob getting his Bronze Star for Valor medal.” “What Bronze Star for Valor medal?” she said.
After a short discussion, it became clear Carleen and Bob’s family were never notified of the medal certification when it was first issued. After discovering the error it took almost a year for the process of retrieving his records and authorization to be acquired for presenting the award to his family in Ohio. Finally on Feb. 26, 2013, the oversight was put to rest when the Bronze Star was awarded to Carleen Pettit. Sadly it took the government 46 years to the day to recognize Bob Gold’s sacrifice, and had it not been for Coneau’s incidental recognition of Gold’s name on a roster, the family may have never known about the award.
Then, five years later Gold was nominated to receive the Ohio Military Hall of Fame award. Gold was nominated for the Hall of Fame honor by lifelong friend, Jon Johnson of Sidney. Johnson, a commissioner on the board of the Shelby County Veterans Services Office, heard about an opportunity to nominate those awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” device for membership into the Ohio Military hall of Fame. He submitted all of Gold’s known military records and after about one year Gold was approved for the award.
“It took a while and was a lot of work but there was no question about sticking with it for Bob’s sake, this story and this award is all about him, about his dedication to the United States, its people, and his family and friends. Following through with the nomination was the least I could do for one of the best friends I ever had; he deserved the recognition and I’m thankful he got it,” Johnson said.
Accepting the Ohio Military Hall of Fame award for her late husband was Carleen Pettit, who attended the induction ceremony with about 15 other family members and friends. Along with the medal she received 10 proclamations from various members of the U.S. Congress and several Ohio State Government officials.
Bob Gold’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of all those who knew him. A small U.S. Government-issued white marble grave stone marks his burial plot at Cedar Point Cemetery in Pasco, Ohio. A humble man who never knew a stranger, Gold requested the family “keep it simple” about how they marked his grave should anything happen while he was away serving his country.
Looking back, Pettit said, “It’s hard to believe it’s been so long ago, we were just kids, and it sure doesn’t seem like over 50 years ago. Bob had such a promising future, he was a man of many talents and among other things was an accomplished musician, singer, and song writer. He recorded a hit song in Nashville when he was only 18 years old and was on the road to adventure and fame when he was drafted into the service. It’s hard to tell what he may have accomplished had he made it home from Vietnam. One thing is for sure, I’m very thankful for the time we had together and how Bob was eventually recognized for all he did for our country. He was a great, husband, a great soldier and a great friend to all who knew him and he deserves to be remembered for all he did for us.”
Likewise, Johnson remembers the day they laid Gold to rest all too well.
“I remember getting a phone call from my Dad at the Marine base in North Carolina where I was stationed, when I answered the phone he called me by my given name which he never did, I knew something was up. Dad said, ‘You’d better reach down and grab your guts, I’ve got some really bad news — it’s about one of your friends.’ I initially asked about another buddy who was in Vietnam assuming it was about him as the last time I’d heard from Bob he was still in Fort Lewis but Dad said, ‘No, it’s Bob, he died while fighting it out in the jungles of Vietnam.’ I recall being barely able to stand, my knees nearly gave out — I was in shock and disbelief, how could this be?” Johnson said.
It took some doing, but Johnson got an emergency leave from Camp Lejeune, and headed home on a five-day leave of absence.
“I made it back in time for the services, but when I went to Cromes Funeral home to meet up with the family I had trouble walking up to the casket with Bob’s mother, Rosemary. My legs just froze up, I guess I was afraid of what I was going to see. The whole affair was heartbreaking from the funeral home all the way up to walking away from the graveside, you just don’t forget those kinds of things,” Johnson said.
Gold’s younger brother Ed Gold shared the same sentiments. When interviewed about his brother’s passing his speech was slow and deliberate. As he spoke he paused momentarily examining the small wooden bowl he held gently in his weathered hands. His brother Bob had made the bowl in woodshop while in high school.
“This is one of the few things I have left to remember Bob by. Knowing he made it and held it in his hands makes it very special, he signed his name and date on the bottom and it means the world to me — and though it’s just a little hunk of wood — it’s priceless!”
Reflecting on the past and his younger years Ed said, “Our family sure had its share of heartaches associated with the wars and military service. My father Joe, my Uncle Eddy and two other soldiers were riding in a jeep on V-J Day in World War II and they were ran over by a large Army truck, Dad was crushed from the chest down but managed to crawl to his brother’s side where he held him in his arms until Uncle Ed took his last breath. Dad never recovered mentally or physically. He suffered for the rest of his life until he died in 1956 leaving my mother with five kids to raise. But Mom was a trooper, she worked hard, started her own little restaurant and raised us kids. When Bob was killed I was only 14 years old, it all seemed like it was a just a bad dream, we were all in a state of shock for a while, it took a long time to get back to anything that seemed like normal, and though time softened the blow, you really never get over something like that,” Gold said.
Though all the memories shared about Sgt. Bob Gold varied and the stories told were unique to the tellers, all shared one hope — that the ultimate sacrifices made by Bob Gold and countless other women and men in the military will not be overlooked or forgotten and will always be appreciated for the cost required. “Lest we forget … “