Editorial: Let’s get Goss marker corrected
The young man had a tough home life growing up in Davie County, but he rose above those obstacles to be a popular student at Davie High School, where he excelled at football. Even now, the school still honors him with the Spurgeon Goss Award, given annually to student-athletes who exemplify the high standards he set. Goss was an all-conference lineman, pretty remarkable when you realize he was all of 5-8 tall and weighed 145 pounds.
But he had tenacity and drive. And heart.
He carried that tenacity and drive into the Vietnam War after he graduated from Davie High, serving in the 3rd Marine Division. Remember that, the 3rd Marine Division.
It seems that in late February of 1967, his 3rd Marine Division was called to support the 1st Division, which had been surrounded by the enemy and was suffering heavy casualties. Searching records, it is difficult to find out exactly who ordered the 3rd Division into that fight, but most accounts considered it a suicide mission.
Spurgeon Goss went in with all of the heart he showed when he lined up on the football field against guys twice his size.
As Marines were being hit by hostile fire left and right, Goss went into action. He rushed into the gunfire to bring his fellow wounded Marines to safety. He was doing this when he was struck in the chest. And he died, right there on the battlefield.
Yes, Spurgeon Goss was a hero.
The problem here is with the grave marker at Smith Grove United Methodist Church. It lists Goss as a member of the 1st Division. Someone in our military back then decided to list all casualties from that battle as members of the 1st Division, whether they ever served in that division or not.
One can only speculate as to why. Maybe they were trying to protect the officer who sent them on the suicide mission in the first place. Maybe they were trying to reduce paper work. Maybe they were just incompetent.
Why does it matter?
What if, many years from now, someone is doing research and looks at that marker saying he served in the 1st Division. They look up the 1st Division and associate Goss with everything it did until his death.
Talk about re-writing history. And this time, we have the government to blame.
And it matters to people like David Griffin, Goss’ childhood friend and Vietnam veteran who has done his part in trying to get the marker corrected. He’s run into brick walls everywhere he goes, from local veterans to the Marine Corps, from the VA to our U.S. representatives.
“Spurg gave his life to save brother Marines in a flawed rescue attempt of other Marines who themselves were also caught in an enemy ambush,” Griffin said. “This is why I get so upset. This flawed leadership was and is so dysfunctional and most who should do not really care.”
There has to be someone out there who can get this fixed, someone who cares enough about one of Davie’s greatest heroes ever to want his legacy to be correct. Letters have been sent to Congressman Ted Budd, but Griffin doubts if the Congressman ever read them, instead handled by a staff member who sends out forms and demands that Goss’ next of kin request the action.
Unfortunately, the remaining family members of Spurgeon Goss don’t really care.
But Griffin does. We do, too. So should you.
Let’s get this fixed.
Call or write Congressman Budd, Virginia Foxx, Richard Burr or any other U.S. representative you can find. Hound them. Nag them. Push them into doing something.
And as we commemorate Memorial Day on Monday, remember Davie County hero James Spurgeon Goss, a proud member of the 3rd Marine Division.
Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise-Record.
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