MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
“It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, it was so surreal,” recalled Sgt. Erik Goodge. “One moment, I was walking down a road, the next, I was on my back looking up at my platoon sergeant.”
Goodge medically retired March 29, in front of the 5th Battalion, 10th Marines headquarters, after serving nearly five years in the Corps. The Evansville, Ind., native, was deployed with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, as a forward observer when his patrol group struck an improvised explosive device causing the loss of his right eye.
It was only a few months into the deployment when Goodge took a fateful and life-altering step while on patrol with the battalion’s 2nd Platoon, Company G.
“It was 4:20 in the morning of Aug 17, 2009,” said Goodge. “We were patrolling with the Afghan Border Patrol looking for IEDs in an area where we had recently had a lot trouble with insurgents. Everyone was on edge because we’d had five Marines (killed in action) over the last three weeks. On that patrol, it was one of the ABP members who found the IED we were looking for, in the worst way possible.”
One of the Afghans, just a little ways ahead of Goodge, stepped on a pressure plate igniting an IED.
“When the IED hit, I couldn’t hear or feel anything and I was just trying to figure out what was going on, like in a dream,” said Goodge. “Then I felt a sharp pain all over my body and after that it’s just a couple flashes of memories.”
Goodge said he remembers watching a sergeant call in a helicopter to pick him up and others injured. He remembers waking up as they moved him onto the helicopter and a couple other times as doctors and service members were moving around him.
It wasn’t until several days later that Goodge woke up from a four-day coma in a hospital in Germany to discover that he now only had one eye. On August 21, Goodge was flown back to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the US where he began 16 months in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
“It was surprisingly easier to adapt to than I thought it would be,” said Goodge, “but I only had one eye to see with and there was no way around that.”
Goodge healed up enough after a few months to allow him to walk around the hospital and visit the other patients who had lost vision or had been injured in other ways while deployed.
“While I was there, myself and other Marines were constantly being visited by generals, (sergeants major), colonels and everyone else,” said Goodge. “It was then that I realized just what the term, ‘Marines take care of their own’, meant.”
It soon came time for Goodge to make decisions about his future after being released from the hospital. The Marine Corps immediately offered him the chance to reenlist on the condition that he moved into a non-deployable job field.
“When I heard that if I wanted to stay in I would have to move to something like a desk job, I knew it was time to go,” said Goodge. “The Marines at their desks are just as important as any other, but I knew that it would not have been the life for me. Now, I’m looking to get into law enforcement back in Evansville.”
Goodge has been attending college courses and talking with the Evansville Police Department about a potential position.
“I come from a place that’s a small city but acts like a big town,” said Goodge. “I love the community and now that I’ve done my part to serve my country, I want to work for and protect my community. Even though there isn’t much practical application for a forward observer for artillery in the civilian world, I can still take the lessons I learned from my time in the Corps, like leadership and keeping my head in intense pressure, and apply that to whatever job I do next.”
At Goodge’s medical retirement ceremony, the officer in charge, Lt. Col. Walker Field, spoke highly of the sergeant and his plans.
“Everything this Marine has done since first enlisting speaks to his character,” said Walker, who is also the commanding officer for 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, Goodge’s unit while in garrison. “Before his deployment, Sgt. Goodge stood out amongst his peers as an exceptional Marine, always taking the time to improve himself and the other Marines in his unit. During deployment, he went out with every single patrol. Sergeant Goodge knew where he was needed most and he was an invaluable asset to (2nd Battalion) during Operation Khanjari. Even after being hit by an IED and losing an eye, he trained himself to the Marine Corps standards and then continued to instruct and better the Marines around him, teaching from personal experience. The Marine Corps has been made better and stronger by him and I know that wherever he goes next, they’ll be made better and stronger thanks to this man.”