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Interview with David Golden, January 17, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with David Golden, January 17, 2008
Date:
January 17, 2008
Description:
Interview with U.S. Army Chaplain David Golden.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Golden, David Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  1/17/2008 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes

 

Zarbock: Good morning, my name is Paul Zarbock, a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and today is the 17th of January in the year 2008. We're interviewing in Charleston, South Carolina, as part of our military chaplains oral history project, Chaplain David Golden. Good morning, sir.

Golden: Good morning sir.

Zarbock: Thank you for making the time. Nobody ever makes the time; you take the time to be with us. Well, the launch off in the interview, what individuals, series of individuals or groups or series of groups or events led you into the ministry.

Golden: I can't, I don't know, I can't quite answer that question in that way. I grew up in a pastor's home, and probably somewhere in high school I began in my own personal walk with God, began sensing the Lord calling me into ministry. But I was really determined that that was not the course I wanted to take. You experience things, see things, go through things as a pastoral family, and I just didn't want to end in that direction. My first year at Taylor University, in Upland, Indiana, during the spring spiritual emphasis week-- and there was a really very powerful movement of the Holy Spirit on that campus.

Zarbock: What year was this, sir?

Golden: That would have been 1961, February of 1961. And during that week I knew that I was spiritually trying to walk in two camps or straddle the fence. And that is, on the one hand, I wanted to have one foot in what the Bible calls, in the world, and do what I wanted to do and the other foot still in relationship with Christ.

Zarbock: What did you want to do if not being a pastor?

Golden: I really liked biology, I liked chemistry and I also knew that at least testing wise, I'd tested far better in sciences than I did in languages.

Zarbock: So the possibility existed of entering the health related--

Golden: In some direction. I would have liked research. I have an analytical mind. But that week, it began first by just making a confession before the Lord that I had been running from him and that I really wanted to renew my relationship with him. That led to three nights later, saying, "Lord, I know that you're calling me into the pastoral ministry and wherever it takes me I'm willing to go." And that was a turning point, at which point I changed my major from biology to psychology.

Zarbock: And you graduated in what year?

Golden: Graduated in 1964, spent two years, was married that year, began looking for seminaries, but spent two years-- I worked as a caseworker for the county welfare department. Great experience, with both a case load of old age and Aid-dependent children, families and individuals, and also was, we didn't call them youth pastors then-- we've elevated the title-- but I had some part-time pay as a youth director of a church. Both of those experiences were really tremendous, gave me tremendous experience, both for me and my wife in preparing us for seminary and ultimately ministry, vocational ministry.

Zarbock: So when and where did you enter the seminary?

Golden: I entered the fall of 1966 at Ashbury Theological Seminar in Willmore, Kentucky. I was in the first-- I went up to Chicago with the first big call-up of our county, Elkhart county in Indiana, I think there was something like 25 buses or more of guys that received draft notices. This was the first big call-up for Vietnam. Spring, it was March of 1966. Busloads of us went up to Chicago for pre-induction physicals. And the welfare department wanted me, tried to make justification for me, but I went before the draft board and ultimately I filed for 4-D classification, meaning I was going to seminary, and I was deferred.

Zarbock: Seminary was how many years?

Golden: Three years. Graduated in 1969. And in the fall of '69, I then began a master of theology work at Princeton Seminary and graduated then the following spring, June of '70.

Zarbock: How did you earn your bread and butter during those years?

Golden: Well, my wife was working. She was a teacher, and we lived very meagerly in seminary.

Zarbock: That may be a master of understatement, sir.

Golden: Kentucky wasn't the highest paying state but she did work in a-- we just lived south of Lexington and she worked for Fayette County schools. Between her pay and summer work, we came out of seminary not owing a penny. Yeah. So my wife has-- I don't have these memories, but she has the memories of living on a very strict, less than ten-dollar budget for food a week. And we looked forward to our parents coming down. Each of our parents would come down in the fall, a weekend in the fall, and they'd take us to the grocery store and we'd stock up. What she remembers more than anything is cutting paper napkins in half when we'd entertain seminary friends. But they were in the same boat we were, I mean, there was no pretenses. And we were happy.

Zarbock: Some of the warmest memories?

Golden: Oh, sure, absolutely.

Zarbock: Well, you graduate seminary?

Golden: Yes.

Zarbock: Out there into the cold world--

Golden: Well, during my last year in seminary at Ashbury, in my M.Div. program-- I should back up by saying from the time I began majoring in psych, I really developed an interest in psych and counseling. And seemed to not only have-- seemed to have a real natural ability at being able to read people, have insight into them and walk with them. So I pursued that in seminary to the best I could, outside the M.Div. core program, and it was for that reason I went to Princeton to study under Seward Hiltner in pastoral theology or pastoral care.

Zarbock: Wasn't that quite a distinction to be able to go on?

Golden: Well, I look back on it, I guess so. At the time, it just seems like, you know, you work hard, you get your grades and the Lord provided. And the fact is at Princeton, neither one of us were working. She, I think, substituted a couple of days, but we had a little baby at home, our first daughter, and we did come out of Princeton with a couple of thousands debt. Not much. Because we had actually saved some money in seminary and used that then towards our Princeton experience. And then I had-- well, anyways, what I started saying was, it was during that last year at Ashbury that I began thinking seriously about the military chaplaincy. We had had an Ashbury grad come and speak at chapel one morning who was an army chaplain and who had just recently returned from Vietnam. And I was really impressed by him as a person, his character, but also his experience. That kind of went to the back of my mind. But during that senior year it began fermenting a little bit and so that by the time I went to Princeton, I had set my mind on applying for the Army chaplaincy and did so during that year at Princeton. Was accepted on active duty; from the time I graduated I had three months to wait, so I drove a taxi, which was something I'd wanted to do for a couple of years. So my wife and I spent a summer in the Bronx in an urban church ministry assigned to a Catholic parish in the South Bronx, and the priest, Patrick McCormack, on the side, not known to either his monsignor or to his bishop, on the side, drove taxi just to see another side of humanity. That fascinated me. And I drove taxi for three months or for two and a half months in Trenton, New Jersey, at night. During the summer of 1970.

Zarbock: That was not without its hazards?

Golden: Oh, in fact, I came-- my life was threatened as much driving that taxi as it was in Vietnam. Yep. Because I had guns pulled on me, a gun pulled on me. Yep. That prepares you. You look back on it and say, okay, thank you, Lord for protecting me.

Zarbock: You served in Vietnam?

Golden: I served in Vietnam, yes sir.

Zarbock: One tour.

Golden: One tour.

Zarbock: What was it like?

Golden: When I was there, I arrived just after November, the Thanksgiving of '71 and was there for 50 weeks, because I came home the 10th or 12th November, '72, and two months later the Paris Peace Accords were signed and we pulled out. So in terms of the intensity of fighting, I didn't experience that. I experienced conflict, I experienced coming under fire, but when I told guys, that became my friends and we compared experiences, they were aghast that I was driving down highways in a jeep that they would no more thought of doing.

Zarbock: Because of enemy action.

Golden: Because of enemy action, because of enemy control. And of course they were there during Tet, and frankly, we all know historically that the guerillas were really severely defeated during that and really didn't have the infrastructure. And I was there during the April invasion by the NVA of South Vietnam.

Zarbock: You left a social environment, well, your father was a minister, which was a scholarly activity--

Golden: Actually, our church's historic roots, are Anabaptist, which means pacifist, although the denomination was, by the time I was in seminary, was-- although our denominational discipline still has a place and recognizes and supports young men who have conscientious-- if there was a draft would not-- would go and be conscientious objectors, the fact is by and large as a denomination, we have theologically moved away from that position.

Zarbock: But as a young man raised in a scholarly culture, attending very good universities and colleges, with this rich spiritual background, and suddenly there you are complete with uniform and without a weapon--

Golden: I had vowed not to carry a weapon.

Zarbock: In a culture, in a climate absolutely 180 degrees away from-- how did you handle that discordance.

Golden: Well, when you grow up in life, it's not-- I mean, I played sports, a guys' locker room is not a place of purity. So it's not as though you're suddenly thrust into a world that you had no idea existed.

Zarbock: You weren't a nun living a nunnery.

Golden: No. No, it was not a case of leaving a monastery where you had no concept-- and when you grow up in a pastor's home, you also know the church is made up of sinners. And you come to realize that even your own parents have their own failings and you're a sinner yourself. So, it wasn't this huge leap for me. And certainly driving taxi and seeing the seamier side of Trenton--

Zarbock: That was preparation.

Golden: It was just-- and having spent that period in South Bronx, living in a project, it was part of a ____________church ministry project and class. The Lord all along the way was preparing me and the South Bronx was really preparing me because I had a professor of Church and Society who really had come to grips with the issue of racism and he was determined to help us as white students understand the issue in our own life and in his life and in-- the seminary itself in the south had taken hits because of their own stance on integration. They had supported integration and Kentucky, the general population of Kentucky was not particularly supportive. I shouldn't say the general population, but certainly that area of Kentucky was not particularly supportive of the civil rights movement. So in all that, the Lord was preparing me for a ministry that's involved in integrated congregation and prepared me really with an understanding of that background and it's an ongoing ministry to this day.

Zarbock: What military organization were you assigned to in Vietnam?

Golden: For four months, to the First Aviation Brigade and specifically the Third Squadron, 17th Armored Cav Regiment, or Air Cav Regiment, excuse me.

Zarbock: From the First Cavalry Division.

Golden: No, no. First Aviation Brigade. It was an independent brigade, which provided support to what was Third Corps, it was a Third Corps asset for the Third Corps CG, and so we provided, really we provided reconnaissance, for-- but we stood down after four months; all the divisions that were there were standing down and the First Cav Division remained in Ben Hoa, we were just about 15 clicks from Ben Hoa, but they were, I think, by June of '72 or July of '72, were not going out on missions. They were just strictly providing security for Ben Hoa and the only ones that were really engaged in missions was the ARVN.

Zarbock: Could you repeat that? You said ARVN?

Golden: Armed Forces of Vietnam, for the Republic of Vietnam. And probably Special Forces were. But basically-- and I went from this Air Cav squadron which was a great four months, I wouldn't trade it for anything, I loved it, to MACV on the delta. MACV, Military Assistance Command of Vietnam. And their mission was the advisory teams. You know, we began with advisors and then we build up with combat forces and we ultimately ended up with advisor teams. And I and my boss, who was a Catholic priest, the two of us went by air, land and sea to cover approximately 90 different locations in the delta and tried to reach them at least once every two months. We were really circuit riders.

Zarbock: And that was your assignment.

Golden: That was my assignment, yeah.

Zarbock: A circuit rider.

Golden: Yes.

Zarbock: In that category, there's a lot of transportation, which has its own hazards, I'm sure.

Golden: It does.

Zarbock: Things do fall out of the sky and--

Golden: They do.

Zarbock: And people get shot.

Golden: I remember the first time that, to my knowledge, suddenly we were just, the pilot and I and Father Vin Hagen [ph?] were just going between places on Sunday morning and all of a sudden all hell broke loose before us. I mean, you could just see the tracers coming up past you and we were flying only at about 1,500 feet because of low ceiling and it was during the wet season and we were really flying around storms, so he had to pop up into the clouds, and that was an interesting experience. And there were some other experiences.

Zarbock: Would you comment-- you're in an aircraft with a person of religion from a different denomination. Just comment briefly, if you please. And it's been my experience in other interviews that these denominational boundaries that exist perhaps in some parts of the world more stronger than others, reduce, if not disappear. Am I correct in that?

Golden: I would say that they don't disappear, because we recognize each other's-- if they disappear then there's not integrity on the part of the individuals. Because, I mean, if you just see a seamlessness, then that means we're not representing our denomination with integrity. And so-- but you don't have a sense of competition, and what is really doctrinally drilled into your head when you're in the chaplain basic course is that when you go to a battalion, regardless of your denomination, every solder there, regardless of what they believe, is a member of your flock. And you aren't necessarily there to convert them, you're there to provide pastoral care, to support them; if they're Jewish, to make sure that they have opportunity to attend their high holy days, the Passover, to arrange for that. You care for them. That doesn't mean you agree with them, it doesn't mean that you might not enter into a discussion with them about beliefs. Father Vin and I, we debated over and over, we'd be literally hollering at each other over the din of the chopper, of the rotor, and the air flying through, if we were particularly in a Huey, because if we were in an F-- in a 58, which was an observation helicopter, you could talk back and forth but then it interfered also with the pilot, but he and I would debate back and forth, personal responsibility, about what innocent citizens, what innocents were on the ground. And we really came-- we were at very opposite poles.

Zarbock: What were these poles?

Golden: He very much believed that anybody that didn't carry a weapon on the ground was an innocent citizen, and I absolutely argued with him that any adult that for whatever reason harbored or was in collusion with or a village that was in support of the Viet Cong were not innocent citizens, but in fact were fully responsible for their behavior. And if they happened to get caught in crossfire or if the village came under fire, that doesn't mean-- don't justify My Lai in anyway, but I do believe we as adults to say, you know-- and I even argued this with him. I said, "Are you saying then that German citizens were innocent?" even though they weren't carrying weapons? And it was a friendly-- we came from two very different philosophical positions. I was much more conservative in my philosophy; he was much more of a __________ in his perspective. Both of us Christian. But in terms of what we were doing, and what we were supporting, we dearly loved each other. He was my boss.

Zarbock: Pastor, I assume that argument was never--

Golden: Never resolved and we'll probably meet in heaven, and now we'll agree, but-- I don't know who's right.

Zarbock: Do you maintain contact with him?

Golden: I've lost contact with him. In fact, I believe that Father Vin has now died. He was a lieutenant colonel and I was a captain at that time and I was a junior captain.

Zarbock: Reminisce with me a little bit. Tell me some stories. What curious or funny or humorous experiences have you had in your role as a chaplain?

Golden: Well, the stories that had the most impact on me really had to do with spiritual lessons I learned about myself. And the first lesson I learned about myself was the first month in Vietnam. I began sensing that I was living under this cloud of haunting fear. And we would routinely have rocket attacks. I had vowed that I was not going to carry a weapon in Vietnam. There were some chaplains that had carried weapons. I knew of some chaplains that would arm themselves to the teeth. And I never heard that they had any spiritual impact in guys' lives. And I determined that I either was going to trust the Lord and not carry a weapon and that-- but it's interesting how you can still compartmentalize. And I had determined that before I ever went to Vietnam. I was issued a .45 and I kept it in my bed stand because we were near the perimeter, you know, you never know if there's a probe or if for some reason you might be overrun. I mean, I don't have any trouble shooting somebody in self defense but I wasn't going to openly carry a weapon on my side or anything like that. But I found myself in the first four weeks living under this haunting fear and I realized as I was praying and talking to the Lord, that I with integrity could not stand in the pulpit and preach as long as I lived with this haunting fear. And as I began sorting and unpacking this in prayer, not necessarily on my knees; as you're talking between situations, maybe you're on the highway, suddenly things have gone quiet between you and your chaplain's assistant who's driving, but in that process what I discovered was not the fear of my own death, but the fear that if I died I would leave a wife and two daughters, one at that point that was two months and the other was two and a half years old, and in my heart the issue was I really didn't trust God to provide for them as well without me as with me. It was really an issue of faith. Do I believe God is who he says he is? In fact, am I willing to acknowledge that he can even provide a better man if he chooses to? When I recognized that was the issue and then when I resolved that, I said, Lord, I acknowledge that if you are who you say you are and you are who I proclaim you are on Sunday mornings from the pulpit in four or five different services, in whom we learn about you in Bible studies during the week, I have to acknowledge and I surrender to you and say, Lord you don't need me in my daughters' life and you don't need me in my wife's life. At that point, at that point all fear left me. Now, I'm not saying that in tight situations there wasn't flashes of some intense fear, about ohhhhhhh, man, are we going to get out of this. But this haunting, devastating fear that was just enslaving me in my decision making and in my freedom to prepare and preach and relate--

Zarbock: Evaporated.

Golden: That was gone forever. That was resolved. That was a huge emotional-- it was a huge spiritual crisis for me. In terms of faith.

Zarbock: And it has never come back.

Golden: It has never come back. In fact I very easily now see that issue in other people's lives about whether they're really willing, whether they can really trust the Lord, and time and again, whether it's an adult, or it's a cadet. Within the last two and a half years a pastor said to me, whose son had graduated from the Citadel and was going to be deployed to Iraq, he said. "Dave, pray for me that"-- and he called his son by name-- "will return, safely." And I called him by name, and I said. "I'm not going to pray for his safe return. I'm going to pray that whether he returns safely unharmed or wounded or in a body bag, that you will find your joy and your peace in Jesus Christ and not in his life, or in-- but even in his death you'll still have peace in Christ." I said, otherwise, you know, that's what I'm praying for. Man, he stopped and there was probably a 30-minute pause and tears came to his eyes and he said, "Thank you, Dave, I've been praying for the wrong thing." You know. So I guess more of the experiences I remember from Vietnam are more issues of faith that I learned. Father Vin and I were out one day coming back by jeep, we'd been up the river, we lived in Can Tho, it's right on one of the branches of the Mekong. I think there are three branches right down there in the delta before they empty out in the South China Sea. And we were racing back because at about five o'clock every night it rained, horrendously. And we came upon an accident, we weren't more than 10 minutes, but we were racing the clock, and I was sitting in the front and he was sitting in the back, and I said to the driver-- and Father Vin always depended on me to arrange for all the transportation and everything-- and I said to one of the chaplain assistants, and there were two of them with us that day, I said, let's drive around here-- and the police weren't on the scene yet. And the reality is most of us had a lot of disdain for Vietnamese truck drivers because they just thought they ruled the road and they would-- they didn't care if they shoved you off the road if you were a smaller vehicle. And it just happened to be a large truck that happened to be involved in the accident and I said, "Let's go on by. The guy probably got what he deserved, if he is injured." And Father Vin said, "That's what the Levites did, on the road to Damascus, is pass by." Oh man, was that an arrow to the heart. Just an insight into your own deceitfulness, into your own heart, you know. And yeah. And there are other great lessons that I learned that year that have sustained me through my ministry up until now.

Zarbock: And for the record, tell me about your current ministry. What are you doing right now?

Golden: I'm chaplain to the corps of cadets and director of religious activities at the Citadel.

Zarbock: And what demands are placed upon you given that role?

Golden: I'm both a battalion chaplain and like a division chaplain. The division chaplain has supervision over all the chaplains in the division, which I had that privilege with being as the First Armored Division Chaplain and just encouraging and challenging and working with and sometimes having to counsel and chastise, but the battalion chaplain is really much more a hands-on with the soldiers and I've got these 2,000 cadets that are there. Also, we have 18 different religious activities on campus. Three faith groups, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. And then these campus pastors and campus directors. They're not-- a few of them are in volunteer positions, but most of them are in paid positions and--

Zarbock: Paid by whom?

Golden: The denomination of the parent church ministry or they raise their support under the auspices. So in that sense I have to try to pull together, try to make sure we're working together as a team and provide supervision and at times pastoral care and encouragement. And sometimes saying, "Hey, come, let's reason together." At the same time there's also very direct hands-on in the lives of cadets and challenging them to live out their faith.

Zarbock: How long have you had this role?

Golden: I'm in my ninth year. I retired from the army after 29 years on active duty to come to the Citadel. It's a tremendous ministry. I'm anticipating retiring this summer.

Zarbock: And then what?

Golden: Only the Lord knows at this point. I have some things I want to do. My first tour in Germany I was assigned a prison ministry by the command chaplain and that was in a Bavarian state prison where there were some U.S. soldiers that were imprisoned in it. Well, we were there for four years and that prison ministry became just a ministry that was really alive. In fact, that's one of the real life absurdities I can talk about. But I've always had a hunger for prison ministry and so I've always said when I retire would be involved in a volunteer way in prison ministry. There are those opportunities around here. And I've always said I'd like to work in support of Vietnam vets, their struggle with life.

Zarbock: Again, off camera, I asked tell me stories of mirth, tell me stories of gloom. And then tell me stories of idiocy of any hues, I'm not faulting Army, Navy, any of the military services, but in a huge, huge complex organization, goof ups do take place, and some of them are hilarious.

Golden: I don't remember stories so well. And I'm not a great storyteller, so like some guys, some guys have this phenomenal memory for the most infinite of details. Minutiae of details and stories. One funny situation, my chaplain's assistant-- well, a couple of fun ones that have to do with chaplain's assistants. In Vietnam, when I was assigned to the third squadron of the 17th Air Cav regiment, my assistant was a guy by the name of, a young man by the name of Carroll Deal [ph?] from Missouri, and he loved to work on cars and he loved what he called his "hot rod" back home. And we had the best maintained jeep in the squadron. The colonel's driver was constantly trying to somehow rip that jeep off. Carroll had developed, he's kind of a good ole boy from the hills of Missouri, a guy who loved the Lord, summoned-to-God young man, and he developed a-- the motor sergeant loved him because he was down in the motor pool maintaining this jeep. So the motor sergeant protected his jeep, my jeep from getting ripped off by other drivers who maybe worked for Majors or Lieutenant Colonels. In this case it was the squadron commander. But he was right, we had probably the best running jeep, he kept it looking good. And one day we were driving into Long Binh, we were about 15 to 20 kilometers from Long Binh, we'd make runs to Long Binh to visit the hospital and prison, the jail there. The jail was called LBJ.

Zarbock: Why was it called--

Golden: Long Binh Jail. And after maybe the first couple of runs--

Zarbock: Excuse me, that really was gallows humor, wasn't it?

Golden: Yes. I can't take credit for that, that's soldiers, gallows humor soldiers. But after we made a couple of runs, and I think even before we made a run, he said, "Chaplain, your predecessor," and he called him by name, "and I made a deal that even though I'm supposed to be the guy that carries the weapon and rides shotgun and you drive," he said, "your predecessor and I made a deal that probably I'm-- I love to drive fast, I know the vehicle, and he rode shotgun with my 16 and I drove," and we talked about it and I said, and we came to the conclusion that he probably could drive us out of more trouble. So Carroll was the driver and I was the passenger with that M-16 across my lap. That's the only time I really associated with a weapon was those trips back and forth. It was his weapon. It's kind of a rationalization but the idea was not to shoot our way out of trouble, but to drive our way out of trouble.

Zarbock: So you were in Vietnam, you were in other foreign countries, at Christmas time. What was it like at Christmas time in Vietnam? What was it like for you, you've got a wife and small children.

Golden: Christmas came about a week after I had that great crisis of faith and Christmas for me was-- I missed my family, but I wasn't bummed out. I mean, I had guys that, officers and everything else, were getting drunk and oh, just moaning and groaning about missing their families and yet I also knew that there was promiscuousness on their part and of course, that incongruity, how do you miss your family and really love them and yet-- and some of them I was already becoming close to, I would challenge them on it, about that part of their life. But I just determined, for one thing, over the years, I was there towards the end of the world, and I had a Conex full-- I opened up this Conex and discovered all kinds of Christmas decorations.

Zarbock: You had a what?

Golden: A Conex, a Conex is a steel-framed box with a door on it, and they would ship things back and forth either by air or by sea in these Conexes. You could walk into it, it was probably about six feet tall, about six and a half feet tall, I don't know how wide, maybe six feet, and maybe eight, 10 feet deep. Today, it is the precursor of these big container ships. My assistant said, "Chaplain, we have lots of Christmas decorations in there." So we determined the first weekend, the first Sunday of advent we'd have a hanging of the greens. And we actually had a manger scene there, that sat out on the lawn of the chapel and soldiers came in and we decorated the chapel up. The chapel didn't-- other than the fact that it was a little different in Vietnam, an open-sided, well, not open-sided, it had screens on the sides and we were as decorated from all appearances-- and so we had a great Christmas Eve service, it was a powerful Christmas Eve service that night. A couple of funny things though. A lot of soldiers had dogs, you know, they would just adopt dogs. Soldiers, American soldiers, love their dogs. And soldiers would come to church and their dogs would follow them. Their dogs would sit down beside them during service. One of my ushers had a dog and he would come forward to receive the plates, the dog would walk with him; he'd hand out the offering plates, the dog would be right beside him; he'd bring the plates forward, dog would be with him; he'd go back and sit down, the dog would go back and sit down. There were usually, if I was keeping attendance records, which I did, I always kept count of the dogs, too. My assistant came home one day and he said, "Chaplain, I've found a pup, he's part German shepherd. Can we have him?" And he was a cute pup. We named him Deacon and he began traveling with us wherever we went in the jeep. He loved to travel in the jeep. But American dogs, for whatever reason, dogs that were American pets did not like Vietnamese, we didn't teach them to, but they did not like Vietnamese. And there were a good number of Vietnamese that were Catholics, so when the priest would come to have mass in the chapel, our Deacon-- well, first of all we discovered that Deacon didn't like our hooch maid, Lee, and so we'd have to put him in one of our rooms, because both my assistant and I lived in a chapel, so we had to put him in one of the rooms while she cleaned out the chapel and everything. But then he started nipping at the heels of the Vietnamese that would come to mass. So the Catholic priest accused him of being a heretic protestant. But we had to lock him up every time there was a Vietnamese around, particularly for a Catholic mass because the Vietnamese that were working on the compound, would come to mass-- boy, deacon became very protective of the chapel. It just--it was just uncanny. I'll give you one other funny something. And it involves my assistant with a jeep. We came home from Vietnam with the Fort Riley, Kansas, First Infantry Division, and it was with the first brigade, called the Devil Brigade-- and when we would go on deployments, we'd hang out a sign called the Devil Fighters of the Devil Brigade outside of our chaplain and chaplain's assistant tent. But we were on a field exercise in January and it was bitter cold, snow was on the ground--

Zarbock: Where?

Golden: In Fort Riley, Kansas, just between Junction City and Kileen, I mean, it can be nasty out there. And it was a beautiful night, star-lit, crystal clear but the temperatures-- and that night, that field exercise-- the brigade commander determined that his headquarters staff would not live in what we called GP Medium tents, they were heated; we would all live in our pup tents. And so my assistant and I dutifully put up our pup tent--

Zarbock: Now, a pup tent can hold two people, is that correct?

Golden: That's right. It was just a little V-shaped-- He had a shelter half, I had a shelter half, pulled them together and it made the tent. There was no heat in that. I vividly remember field mice running across us that night. And both of us slept little that night. But in the safety briefing the next morning, we were very-- the colonel specifically warned us, the brigade commander, specifically warned us, he said, there's black ice out, be careful. And my assistant and I, as soon as the staff meeting was over, were running back into the post to do some business because we also were responsible for a congregation with a full congregation of Sunday School, youth and everything else. And so we were running back in to do something and there was a bit of hoar's frost that night and there was hoar's frost that morning falling off the tree branches and we happened to hit patch, and boy, that jeep was so light, it just spun around in a heartbeat. We went down an embankment, out across a frozen pond, came to rest up against a small sapling and I said to Paul, I said, "Paul, I won't tell if you don't tell." He put it in four-wheel drive and he got us-- and there was snow on the ground and he got us- there was snow on that pond, across the ice, up the embankment, up on the road, we went slower the rest of the way in.

Zarbock: Chaplain, now I'm going to repeat a question that I've asked all of the chaplains. In your military career and also in your duties here at the Citadel, have you ever been ordered, has it ever been suggested or have you even had the experience of a wink and nudge, asking you or telling you to do something, say something, act in a way that was in violation of your personal belief and morality?

Golden: Never told to. I only had one situation as a battalion chaplain when I began hearing from the company com-- well, the troop-- the company commanders that they didn't believe our operational readiness reports, maintenance-wise, were being properly reported. They really believed that our operational readiness-- that we were still operationally ready, but that figures were being fudged. I first went to the sergeant major and talked with him, thought I had his confidence, but he went and blew it to the executive officer. The executive officer of the battalion is responsible for maintenance reports, and he called me in one day.

Zarbock: Did he outrank you militarily?

Golden: Oh, yeah, he's my rater. He's a major and I'm a captain. Battalion chaplains, well, all chaplains have direct access to the commanders, to the commander and you do not have to go through the executive officer, that's just accepted in the army. And I forget whether it's even in writing, but I think it's even in writing, it allows you-- you don't have to tell your report-- you can have conversations of confidence and privacy with the battalion commander or with your commander without ever telling your chief of staff or the executive officer what went on in there, if it was personal or if there were things of a private character. Normally, we'd back brief the XO or the chief of staff, but by-- but you didn't have to, you didn't have to ask his permission to go and see a commander. The XO called me in one day and he read me the riot act about getting into business that I wasn't supposed to. He said, "You as chaplains aren't supposed to be in these areas." And what he didn't know was that the USAREUR or command chaplain who's the--

Zarbock: The what?

Golden: The United States Army of Europe command chaplain, which was the highest ranking chaplain and he was the chaplain to the highest ranking general in Europe, apart from the-- there were two four-stars, there were at that time two four-stars, two important four-stars in Europe. One was, oh my goodness, I've just lost it. The Supreme Allied Commander in Europe who in terms of chain of command was over everyone. And then there's the USAREUR commander who was a four-star. But he was a powerful commander. During the Cold War, he was probably one of the most powerful four stars in the army. Well, this USAREUR chaplain worked for the United States Army Europe commander and he had just put out a letter saying, "Guys, you are to be the moral conscience of your command." The chaplain had done that. And he said, "You have an obligation to God and really to the chaplaincy to be willing to have the courage to take the tough stands." Well, the XO didn't know that letter had come out and he said, you are in areas that you're not supposed to be, and I said to him, and I was respectful to him, but you know, both of us had a little raised voice, I was respectful to him and said you couldn't be further wrong because the USAREUR chaplain has just told us that we're to be the eyes and ears of the commander when it comes to moral and ethical issues. And he backed down. He soon processed out in just his normal rotation and the new XO came in and things got-- there was more integrity in the reporting system. But I was prepared once I got my ducks in order a little bit more to confront him-- first go to the commander in this case. But that was the only time in 29 years that I had any hint of pressure.

Zarbock: Did you ever have an experience that some chaplains have of a commanding officer, "Look, chaplain, just don't bother me. I don't put much faith in what you're doing, but just go do it."

Golden: Never. Never.

Zarbock: It's a rare thing. Of the interviews I've done, by the way, you're number 63, I think there have only been two chaplains that reported at a time in their career they were told by a superior officer, don't bother me and I won't bother you.

Golden: No. Even though commanders might not be active in their faith, nevertheless, I always had commanders that believed in what the chaplain was doing and believed that we were a valued member of their staff. And some may value you a little more than others, that's life. I mean, there are congregations that value their pastor more than other congregations.

Zarbock: Speaking of life, casting an eye over your shoulder at your own personal history, adolescence, college years, marriage, military career, your current career, and the wonderful educational experiences and opportunities that you've had, what sort of credo have you hammered out for you? Colonel Golden.

Golden: This credo has not been hammered out over the years. It was really a credo that was passed on to me by my parents, and that was: In everything you do, you're accountable to the Lord. And seek just to be a faithful servant and to be a servant of excellence. That is harder to do, and it's a theme I even have right now with the cadets of doing things with excellence, because it's the hard work behind the scenes that results in the product of excellence and all of us are a bit lazy. But that credo, that's been with me, that began, that was with me-- and I'd say one thing, I discovered when my father retired and I couldn't be at his retirement and I sent a letter and in the process of writing that letter, the Lord showed me how all the things that I had learned about pastoring that were very bedrock principles for me, that I had just acquired being in the home. So even though there was a point in my life where I was running from it, in fact the Lord had already been preparing it for me. It would never happen now, but I can remember as a six-year-old going into the city prison at Fort Wayne, Indiana, to visit a young man from the congregation. You know? Just happened. And we walked in and I went with him. Frequently he took me pastoral calling with him to aging shut-ins, or if he knew the family had kids my age, we'd play while he was pastoral calling in the home. But all that began, you know, all those things were formative in my life, began building principles into me that became natural, I didn't have to learn them, they were just--became who I was and naturally expressed once I began vocational ministry.

Zarbock: I don't think I've interviewed a chaplain who didn't say something laudatory about their wives. Anything you would like to say? We're just about out of tape. Chaplain's wife.

Golden: Yeah, Alice will tell you that she was determined that she was never going to marry a preacher-- of course, I said I was never going to be a preacher-- because her family was very involved in their local church, always close to her pastors and it was always hurtful when the pastors left and she didn't want to have to go through that hurt. But we began dating and when I told her that I believed the Lord was calling me into the ministry, that didn't scare her off. And to her credit she has understood that the call to me really extended to her and to our kids and that we have been a team in ministry from the time when we were first married and I was a youth director and she helped me with the young people. We've been a team in ministry since then.

Zarbock: Chaplain, thank you for making the time. This has been just a splendid interview. Thank you, sir.

Golden: My privilege, Paul. Thank you.

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