By Paul Wood
URBANA — When U.S. troops began massing for action in the Persian Gulf, Brad Gould found himself shuttled in an unmarked car from his home base in Holland to Germany, then to a plane.
“They needed one volunteer. Everyone else had family in the Netherlands,” he recalls.
From there, he supervised medical supply service in Qatar and nearby.
Operation Desert Shield became Desert Storm in less than half a year. Gould transported medical supplies for the war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
At another base, he heard sirens as Iraqis fired missiles.
“I wouldn’t say it was safe, but I wouldn’t say it was dangerous,” he says.
Gould served 22 years active duty in the Air Force, leaving as a master sergeant. He served on bases all over this country, as well as in the Persian Gulf, the Netherlands and Korea.
At 56, he’s still serving veterans as superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Champaign County.
The commission is managed by a board of directors representing veterans agencies in the county.
Help for veterans can include mortgage or rent payments, utility payments or other essentials.
Gould also uses his years of experience to help with VA claims as well as documentation and burial benefits.
“We’ve helped 206 veterans with financial assistance so far this year,” he says, and many more with counseling.
Gould grew up in Shelbyville, Ind., and started off his college career at Purdue University in West Lafayette.
The first semester went great, he says. The second, not so much.
“I was having a great time,” Gould says. “My parents didn’t think that was so great.”
He enlisted in the Air Force at 21.
“It was probably the best decision of my life,” he says.
As a supervisor in medical logistics, he kept busy.
When medical personnel needed something from his unit, “they needed it yesterday,” he says.
That meant a lot of flying around. He was in the air on Sept. 11, 2001, taking care of a non-commissioned-officer graduation in Biloxi, Miss. Gould never got there.
Grounded in Atlanta, he watched CNN in horror as terrorists slammed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and another crashed in an empty field after passengers overpowered them.
That day, Gould helped Navy recruits find a USO center in the airport, where the Army took over.
“They do a good job of taking care of people,” Gould says.
He has learned from the experience: having brought a dress uniform and one change of clothes, you’re not well-prepared for a long period of being stranded.
“I carry extra clothes in a backpack now,” he says.
Just before he retired, he was deployed in the now almost-forgotten time of Y2K, when people feared a massive computer crash would cause a crisis on Jan. 1.
Gould was needed for his computer skills in Korea, where the clocks at that U.S. base would turn to the year 2000 before anywhere else.
It wasn’t an assignment he looked forward to.
“I went kicking and screaming,” he says.
At Osan Air Base, he didn’t much care for the humidity, especially during monsoon season.
That was followed by bitter cold.
Yet Gould said his time in Korea was “the best year of my career.”
“I really loved the camaraderie there,” he says.
He came to Urbana to work for Provena, now Presence Covenant Medical Center, and was happy to move into a job helping veterans. And he’s newly married to Shana Gould.
Do you know a veteran who could share a story about military service? Contact staff writer Paul Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org.