Richard wayne Golden and his sgt. Charles Golden Rifle Team
Five years ago, Richard Wayne Golden of Massey wanted to honour his greatuncle Charles Golden, with a military funeral. His great-uncle, a Canadian, had been part of the first American military unit to be shipped over to Europe during the First World War. Sergeant Charles Golden was wounded, but returned after the war, never fully recovering from his wounds and dying in 1959.
Golden had tried to locate a rifle team who would do the customary 21-rifle salute for a military funeral, but there were no teams available.
“With several veterans and Legion members, we conducted the military service for my greatuncle, ourselves, but without the 21-rifle salute,” said Golden.
Almost five years ago, Golden decided that he would try and form a rifle team, so that veterans who had served their country could receive the highest military honour after they died.
“If it had not been for Roy Eaton’s encouragement, the Sgt. Charles Golden Veterans Rifle team would not exist,” said Golden.
Eaton is a past president and current Legion member of Branch 177 in Little Current.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, Golden and his rifle team, made up of all veterans, were in Blind River, honouring a Second World War veteran who died on Oct. 19, 2018 at the age of 101. Able Seaman Fernand Edward Gauthier served his country in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. Gauthier was born on Aug. 11, 1917. He enlisted into the navy when he was in his early 20s. His medals include: the Atlantic Star with Murmansk Bar, the Mediterranean Star with Bar, the Italian Star, Volunteer’s medal, as well as the WW II Victory medal.
Donald Patrie, (Massey), Gerrard Marion (Thessalon), Dennis Golden (Mckerrow), Kim Mcfarling (Blind River), Francine Grazley and David Grazley (Thessalon) made up the honorary rifle team with Wayne Golden leading and bugler.
The Sgt. Charles Golden Rifle Team is an all-volunteer group of veterans under the leadership of Golden and all their expenses are out-of-pocket. Golden says that his rifle team has helped his severe post-traumatic stress disorder that he has personally battled for decades.
Wayne Golden was born on Jan. 1, 1941 in Sudbury. When he was just five years old, his family moved to Espanola. His father began work at the mill in town, and Golden attended school in Espanola.
In 1958, Golden decided to join the Royal Canadian Navy and see the world. While serving in the RCN, he was stationed in Ottawa, Nova Scotia and the North West Territories, and in 1962 he got out of the navy and went to work at International Nickel Company in Sudbury.
Golden still had the restless feeling to travel the world, and in 1967 he quit his job at INCO and went to British Columbia. From there, he crossed the border into Portland, Oregon and tried to join the U.S. Army. He told them he wanted to go to Vietnam to help fight the North Vietnamese.
“If you were a Canadian, the U.S. draft board asked you to go back to Canada to get a Visa,” said Golden.
When he tried to join at Draft Board #5, he found out that they had quotas, and he was one year too old to join the army and fight in Vietnam. So, he went back and lied and said that he was born in 1942, and they let him in the army at age 26.
Because he had prior service in the navy, Golden and a few other ‘older’ servicemen, were placed in charge of hundreds of young men on a bus caravan to Fort Lewis in Washington State. At the reception centre Golden said there were about a thousand buses bringing new soldiers to the fort.
From there Golden, a platoon guide, spent eight weeks in basic training and from there they were sent to Fort Huachuca in Arizona for eight more weeks of advanced training. Then on to Fort Mead in Maryland, and then flown to Oakland, California to board the USNS General Weigel. It took 21 days to get to Vietnam, arriving Oct. 21, 1967.
As Golden explained, there was always conflict, wherever they were in Vietnam. He was transferred to the Big Red 1 Infantry Unit, 1st Battalion 16th Infantry Rangers. By January of 1968 the Tet Offensive, a massive North Vietnamese and Viet Cong shock attack on hundreds of South Vietnam cities and towns began on Jan. 30. U.S. and South Vietnamese militaries sustained heavy losses, before finally repelling the assault.
Golden finished his first year in Vietnam and extended his tour for another year. He was transferred from the Iron Triangle, an area of rubber plantations between Saigon and Cambodia to the Mei Kong Delta area, which is all swamp. At this point, Golden had three weeks left in his tour. In January of 1969 he was flown to Oakland, California and discharged on Jan. 9, 1969.
Golden came back to Canada and took a job as a corrections officer at the Burwash Industrial Farm (jail). He worked there until June of 1971, but was suffering from panic attacks, depression, and angry outbursts. He thought going back into the service would help, so he travelled to Toledo, Ohio, reenlisted in June of 1971 and told them he wanted to go back to fight in Vietnam. Instead, the U.S. army sent him to Germany. He took his discharge from the army in 1974.
“I’m not a peace time soldier,” said Golden.
He came back to Espanola, and the PTSD symptoms were even worse.
“You’re never the same again.”
He went from job to job. Golden says he was never physically-abusive, but he was verbally violent and his family members suffered. The panic attacks got worse while he was in Germany and continued throughout the 1970s.
“You think the world is coming to an end, you’re crying and thinking of suicide to end it,” he remembers.
By 1980, Golden was working in Sault Ste. Marie and started going to service clubs. He knew it might help if he could be with other vets. He got into the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Sault Ste. Marie and began organizing new clubs in and around Ontario. For the first time in his life, he discovered that he had good organizational skills and he could put them to good use.
For about 20 years, Golden moved from place to place, setting up FOE clubs and working as a chef to support himself. When he would have a “burnout” he’d come back home to the North Shore.
It wasn’t until 2009, when he started getting counselling in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan through the VA Clinic, that he discovered not only did he have PTSD, but heart disease from the herbicides used in the jungles of Vietnam, as well as other lingering ailments. Golden says the VA counselling has helped him tremendously with his PTSD.
He is dedicated to keeping his Sgt. Charles Golden Veteran Rifle team going, and, is continually looking for new members for the team.
“We are the only civilian team of this type in Canada.”
On Saturday, Nov. 10, the rifle team will be doing a shoot at the Espanola cemetery for three Second World War veterans; Clare Patterson, Homer Gervais and Gilbert Charette. Golden will be there proudly leading his team.
Richard Wayne Golden, veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, and the U.S. Army, where he fought in Vietnam, organized an honorary rifle team almost five years ago. The team has conducted many military 21-rifle shoots at ceremonies across the North Shore and on Manitoulin Island for deceased military and police members.