Jim Gorman probably should have never been sent to Vietnam. He probably never should have been wounded and suffered through months in hospitals and other issues. But rather than dwelling on those issues he came home and became a member of nearly every veterans organization around, then spent the past 10 years or so driving veterans to hospitals and other destinations.
For the countless hours he’s donated helping other veterans, the Hillsboro area resident and former Postal Service employee received a Hometown Heroes Award this week from People’s Bank in Hillsboro. He donated the $500 award that came with it to the Highland County Veterans Honor Guard.
Gorman was nominated for the award by a veterans organization that asked to remain anonymous.
“The AmVets are OK, the DAV is OK, the American Legion is down a little, but most of those veterans organizations are doing OK. But the Honor Guard has to fund themselves, pay for their uniforms, make all those trips and pay for other things,” Gorman said. “Who’s going to pay for all that? I figure they can use the money.”
Now 69 and known nationwide for the award-winning farm toys he makes from scratch, Gorman said he was 19 or 20 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. His father, William Edwin Gorman, had passed away about four years earlier and Jim was running the family farm on Mount Washington Road in the daytime and working nights at Moore Drop Forge. He had four sisters at home and his mother, Margaret Katherine, had to work at a local telephone office while he was gone to make ends meet.
Those who nominated Gorman for the Hometown Heroes Award said he never should have been drafted because he was an only surviving son and the only male in the family.
But like many others in similar situations, he was drafted anyway.
Gorman had been in Vietnam for about three months when March 8, 1969, rolled around. Gorman was in the infantry. His group had been out on patrol that day and was setting up for the night when the enemy started lobbing rocket after rocket on their position. Gorman said he and a buddy had been out firing explosives back and were heading back to camp when an explosion hit near him and splattered his left side with shrapnel from his foot to his face.
He does not know where he was at when it happened.
“They flew us in from one firefight to another, then they’d come back to pick us up,” Gorman said. “You bailed out of a chopper right in the middle of a firefight. I just wasn’t lucky that night.”
After the wounds Gorman spent more than two months in hospitals and had multiple surgeries. In the meantime, he said the Army “lost him.” He said he went two months without pay, then had to get all his shots again because the Army lost his shots records. But even though he knew he shouldn’t have been there, he said he never let it get the best of him.
“You’ve got guys that go around mad at the world. You can’t do that. You have to laugh and go on,” Gorman said.
After returning from Vietnam, Gorman farmed and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 32 years, then spent the past 10 years or so driving veterans to destinations all around. He recently received another award for 1,500 hours of volunteer service.
“I enjoy doing it. I figure if I can help somebody, I’m going to do it,” Gorman said.
He said Vietnam was not a nice place to be.
“It wasn’t no fun thing,” he said. “Basically, you were afraid to close your eyes because you didn’t know if you were going to wake up the next day.”
But in the end, he’s been able to turn it into something positive, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s just to help people. If you’re in it for makin’ money, I ain’t seen it. I don’t care about it,” Gorman said. “I enjoy doing it. If you can’t [help people] and laugh and enjoy life, you’re in trouble.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.