Sometimes it's the small victories that get us through life. During Saturday's Lost Homecoming event at War Memorial Park in Pass Christian, Naval Construction Battalion Center Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Odenthal told a tent full of Vietnam veterans about the day his friend and former colleague Wayne Goodermote won while spending six years at the "Hanoi Hilton," otherwise known as the Hoa Lo Prison.
He was a Seabee captain when Odenthal crossed paths with Goodermote, "but in a younger life as a lieutenant junior grade he was a radio navigator who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years in the "Hanoi Hilton."
What follows is Odenthal's re-telling of one of Goodermote's small victories:
As a young lieutenant, he had a reputation at the Hanoi Hilton in six years for being a hard customer with the captors. He would tell you many times he was interrogated and they broke him down and he cried like a baby. he lost those days. And other days, he did well.
He always talked about small victories. One of his victories, they had taken him in to interrogate him. Capt. Goodermote would tell you that growing up as a farm boy with his brother, they would have staring contests and he could out-stare anybody he knew. Now, the Vietnamese, holding the stare and breaking that was a sign of power.
They took him into investigate him that day and the investigator was on a high chair and then he was on a stool on a box on the floor. (He) was much lower so the person had the position of power. Capt. Goodermote said 'I'm winning today.'
And so he went in there and locked his gaze on his interrogator and the interrogator locked him back in a stare down. As they stared at each other in silence, Capt. Goodermote leaned his head a little bit to the right. And his interrogator went with him.
And then he leaned a little bit more to the right. And his interrogator went with him.
He leaned a little bit more to the right. And his interrogator went with him.
And then he jerked his head -- and his interrogator fell on the floor.
He won that day. Now, you can imagine what he got after that, but he didn't care because that day he won. That's a lesson that we never, never, never quit and that's what I have learned from my encounters with Vietnam veterans.