Profiles of Courage Sponsored by Rahal-Miller
Ken Godfrey's mother's parents were Leonard and Annie Jarmon. His Granddaddy Jarmon was a farmer and a hunter. His Grandmamma Jarmon was a homemaker. His father's parents were Dewey and Ethel Godfrey. His Grandfather Godfrey was a business man that ran his own construction company. His Grandmother Godfrey was also a homemaker. His Godfrey Grandparents were from St. Augustine IN Nassau County and were descendants of Florida pioneers. Ken's parents are Tommy and Estelle Godfrey of Jackson County.
Ken's Dad was a policeman. He died when Ken was 11 years old. Ken's Mom worked at the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee part-time as a bookkeeper. Ken has three sisters, Linda, Mary Anne, and Cecelia. Ken is the third oldest child.
Ken graduated from Marianna High School and was enrolled at, and attending Chipola when the war was escalating in Vietnam. Ken was watching the news one day, and back then Vietnam consumed the news all the time, when he got an idea. Ken remembered that his Grandfather Dewey Godfrey had served his country in WWI, and his father Tommy Godfrey had served his country in WWII, so it was then that Ken decided that he wanted to do his part and join the Vietnam War effort. He had two deferrals that could have kept him from having to serve in Vietnam had he chosen not to serve. One, was that Ken was his immediate families sole survivor to carry on the family name. Two, was because he was going to Chipola with a student deferment.
So Ken went to the Post Office and told them that he wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps. He soon received instructions to go to Montgomery, Alabama to take a physical. Ken enlisted in December of 1967, and by the time his feet hit the ground in Paris Island South Carolina, Ken wondered if he had made a mistake. From Paris Island Marine Ken Godfrey was sent to Camp LaJune and placed in their advanced infantry training program. From there he was sent to a mountain climbing school in California at Camp Pendleton. Finally, Ken was sent across the pond for a distance of about 10,000 miles to Vietnam.
Ken said the Vietnamese culture in the mountainous region where he was stationed was different from the culture of the southern Vietnamese located in the rice paddies of the agricultural region. Where he was stationed, in the north, the native Vietnamese people had the Vietnamese complexion but had sharp French facial features and green or blue eyes. He said this was due to the French being in that part of the world previous to the Vietnam War. In southern regions of Vietnam, people predominately had Asian features.
Ken said that the Vietnamese culture in northern Vietnam where he was located farmers plowed their fields with water buffalo. The women would chew something called beetle nut to make their teeth look black. In their culture a woman was thought to be more beautiful, the blacker their teeth were. The farmers would have their children use the bathroom on the crops to fertilize them. The native people of Vietnam, called "Mountain Yard People", where pro American ,so they were also fighting the NVA and the Viet Cong. The NVA or North Vietnamese regular Army were enemy soldiers while the Viet Cong were enemy gorilla types that would slip in and slip out of wherever they were attacking.
Upon arriving in Vietnam Ken's group was assigned to different companies. Ken was assigned to the India Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, located in Quang Tri province just south of the demilitarized zone. This was a mountainous area of Vietnam, not far from Laos. Ken's unit would run "search and destroy" missions. All Marines were given a supply of Malaria pills and Halazone pills. The Malaria pill was due to the dense population of mosquitoes there, and the Halazone pill was used to purity water so that it could be drinkable. The Halazone pills would make the water taste really bad.
Ken's group basically ran search and destroy patrols attempting to find the enemy and make contact with them. The operational area where they were located was the I core of the Mountainous area of Vietnam.
The Marine troops would tour for 13 months, while the Army would tour for 12 months. Ken brought a declassified document in to the TIMES during these interviews. The document describes how Marines from Ken's group were killed in September 1968. Ken said that this declassified document just gives a person a glimpse of one day in the life of a marine in Vietnam. He said this was a description of what a Vietnam Marine would have called a "good" day. Most days were even worse than this particular day. The accounts of this day were from Captain Todd's daily log book. It was the Captain's job to log in everything that happened at the end of each day.
"The temperature was 125 degrees. India Company started receiving mortar rounds at 6:45 in the morning, so the Company called in airstrikes. CO I at co-ord XD855592 received 20 rounds incoming 60mm mortars from northwest. Returned mortar fire and arty, AO on station, directing fixed wing. Three friendly WIA. At 9:30 that morning the following would happen. Co I at co-ord XD855591 received eight short art 105mm rounds. Fired by Fox battery 2/12. Six friendly KIA NBC, 14 friendly WIA NBC. Then at 11:00 am the following happened. Co I at co-ord XD854591 received small arms fire, (rifle fire) and two command detonated DH-10 mines. Returned small arms, using gunships. (Hueys) Later at 6:45 at night the following happened. Co I at co-ord XD854592 after and intensive arty prep, fixed wing strike and gunship support secured the above position and searched area finding six bodies and nine NVA graves estimated to vary between one and five days old, with one to three bodies per grave, nine bunkers, 17 fighting holes, assorted 782 gear by demo. (This means ammo belts, cartridge belts, and canteens). Finally at 10:00 at night the following happened. Co L at co-ord XD864591 had three persons, (3 guys) with minor wounds that did not report themselves until now. They are all now med-evacs,. The Fox Battery was the ones that launched the rounds that killed the six with friendly fire and wounded the 14 that would have to be med-evacted. "
The following persons didn't make it out that day, they were all killed due to friendly fire: 1st Lt Douglas A. Paige of Baldwinsville, New York; (Paige died after the above report was logged in) LCpl John W. Stahl of Dayton, Ohio; Cpl Andrew T. Bukovinsky of Manhasset, New York; LCpl Larry L. Lower of Union City, Minnesota; LCpl Randall A. Olson of Moline, Illinois; LCpl Terry D. Ratliff of Atascadero, California; Pfc John A. Ruscito of Centereach, New York.
Ken said, "Everyday you would wake up to explosions and go to sleep to explosions. It was constant warfare." The military called the enemy, "gooks." He said the marines in Vietnam called Vietnam, "being in country" and the United States was called, "going back to the world."
Ken was taken out of Vietnam in 1968 and sent to NCO school at Camp Hansen in Okinawa. In Okinawa they prepared him to be a noncommissioned officer upon completion of the school. Then he was sent back to Vietnam. The U.S. assigned Ken's group to operation "Dewey Canyon", located in Ashau Valley.
Ken received a Bronze Star for his achievements during operation "Dewey Canyon". His United States Marine Corp Citation, also known as an accommodation, reads as follows: "For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a Squad Leader with Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division. On 12 February 1969, during Operation Dewey Canyon, Company I was advancing toward the crest of Hill 1280 in Quang Tri Province when the lead element came under intense fire from a company-sized enemy force occupying a well-concealed bunker complex. Reacting instantly, Lance Corporal Godfrey skillfully deployed his squad and directed them to deliver suppressive fire at the hostile positions. Fearlessly moving throughout the fire-swept terrain, he shouted instructions and encouragement to his men and effectively directed their fire upon the enemy. Although seriously wounded twice by the enemy small arms fire, Lance Corporal Godfrey resolutely maintained his position and, refusing medical attention, continued to direct his squad in their attempt to relieve the lead elements. His bold initiative and timely actions inspired all who observed him and contributed significantly to the defeat of the hostile force. Lance Corporal Godfrey's courage, aggressive fighting spirit and steadfast devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service."
Ken also received a Meritorious Accommodation, a Naval Accommodation, and he and the entire India Company received the Presidential Unit Accommodation for Operation Dewey Canyon.
He was first wounded by shrapnel September 28, 1968 and then wounded twice by gun shots February 12, 1969. Ken was med-evacted after the two gun shots. He was operated on in Vietnam and then again in Guam. Then he was finally sent to the hospital of the Naval Air station at Pensacola and then discharged from there, in June of 1969.
After Ken was discharged he returned to Jackson County and went back to Chipola on the old G.I. Bill. He then got a job with the Tallahassee Police Department where he worked for five years. Then Ken decided to come back home to Jackson County in 1974 and work for his father-in-law at Thrifts Department Store. Ken's father -in-law owned Thrifts and Daffin's department stores. Ken worked there for 4 years.
Finally, Ken took the civil service exam in Panama City. He was then hired in 1978 as a letter carrier at the post office in Marianna. Later, Ken got promoted to postmaster in Greenwood in 1987. He stayed in Greenwood for 9 years. Next, Ken was promoted in 1996 to Postmaster in Sneads, where he worked for 3 years. From there he became postmaster for Blountstown in 1999 and served that post for around 3 years. Next he took an assignment to be officer in charge in Defuniak Springs for 120 days. Finally, in 2002 he went to Graceville as postmaster and was there two years until he retired in 2004.
Ken said that after he retired he never looked back and never went back to visit. He only goes to a post office now for normal civilian purposes, like anyone else would do.
Ken farms now. He used to put on a lot of barrel races at his farm. Now he just trains a few roping horses and raises Simmental cows. Ken was appointed to be on the Board of Directors of the Cattlemen's Association in 1995.
Ken believes that it was his Jarmon side of the family that taught him to ride, rope, and hunt. Ken also enjoys coon hunting and deer hunting. He says he grew up coon hunting even though they would see mostly possums. Today, Ken has three black and tan coon dogs: Leroy, Chief, and Pocahontas.
Ken says that the Godfrey's lived away in St. Augustine and Tallahassee, while his Jarmon side lived right here in Jackson County. His Grandfather Godfrey wanted Ken to be a business man, but Ken thought and still thinks that it has been way more fun to experience the riding, roping, and hunting over the years that is a tradition from his Jarmon side of the family.
This is a story of a quiet, polite, unpretentious product of Jackson County who answered the call to service when he was needed by his country. During that service he displayed a love of country and a level of bravery and leadership that earned him well deserved military honors. We can all be proud of Ken Godfrey and the traditions he stands for.
We give a big "Rahal Miller Salute" this Veteran.