Honoring one of their own

Carrollton Armory names facility
after the late Robert ‘Goose’ Caldwell

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (January 2003) – “A man, a Kentuckian, an American, a father has lived valiantly and died bravely.” Sgt. Maj. Robert John “Goose” Caldwell wrote those words in a letter to the Carrollton News-Democrat after the Vietnam War; words which so adequately describe the man who composed them.
“He was a very soft-spoken, quiet man,” said his daughter, Robin Caldwell. The Carrollton National Guard Armory, established in the 1940s, on Dec. 14 was renamed in honor of “Goose” Caldwell.

Sgt. Maj. Robert John Caldwell

The late Sgt. Maj. Robert
John “Goose” Caldwell

A Carroll County native, Caldwell was born on Dec. 2, 1926, to George and Ora Booth Caldwell. He was a descendant of Kentucky pioneer Squire Boone, brother of Daniel Boone. He received his nickname due to the fact that he would always “goose” his opponents at marbles.
The 6-foot-6, lanky Caldwell was drafted on April 6, 1945, while a senior at Carroll County High School. He was assigned to Battery A, 674th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion after basic training and was sent to the Pacific Theatre of Occupation in Japan.
Although his unit was scheduled for the invasion of Japan, the A-bomb delayed his arrival in Japan. Robin Caldwell said her father always thought the bomb was such a “terrible thing to do to save so many lives.”
After an honorable discharge in March 1950, Corp. Caldwell decided three years later to join Company A, 201st Engineer Battalion of the Kentucky National Guard in Carrollton. He became the unit’s full-time Administration and Supply Tech. Whatever duty was required of him, he did it.
During his military service, he became qualified as an Infantryman, Field Artillery Senior Sergeant, Administrative Specialist, Unit Supply Specialist, and parachutist. He graduated from the Senior Leadership School at the Kentucky Military Academy at Fort Knox, Ky. In 1950, Caldwell earned his private pilot’s license.
The Carrollton unit changed from being an engineer company to a field artillery battery, Battery A, 2nd Battalion 138th Field Artillery in the early 1960s. The 2nd battalion, 138th Field Artillery pre-dates the Mexican War, when it was part of the Kentucky militia. The battalion was activated for federal service in the Vietnam War in May of 1968.
Caldwell went to Vietnam, even though he wasn’t required to go because of age and the fact that he had a family. He told his wife, Terri, and three daughters, “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t go with the boys.”
“The boys,” as he affectionately called Battery A, were always under his watchful eye whether abroad or at home in Carrollton. “He made sure they had the best of everything,” said his daughter.

Because so many have remembered his generosity, love and determination, the armory has been renamed for him. For many, Caldwell did not just work for the National Guard, he was the Guard.
To his friend John Tilley, he symbolized the backbone of the organization. “He was dedicated to his position, willing to help his fellow soldiers and always there for them.”
Tilley was born in the house across the street from where Caldwell lived for a number of years. He and Caldwell served in the National Guard together many years.
Caldwell was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major on May 2, 1986, and assigned to the Adjutant General’s Office in Frankfort as Administrative Sergeant Major. He retired from the Guard on Nov. 12, 1986, after 38 years, two months and two days of military service.
After retirement, he would still frequently check in on the armory. Many of “the boys” thought of him as the granddad or uncle they never had, said Robin Caldwell.
Many soldiers came to him for help, whether their needs were military related or financial, said Tilley. He was always there to lend a helping hand or a listening ear.
Robin Caldwell said her father “made sure the Guard had the best of everything.” If someone were unsure of their families’ military history, “Goose” would pull out all of the stops to help them find answers in every possible way.
The armory is the third building to house the Carrollton National Guard unit. It sits on a 10-acre lot next to the entrance to Gen. Butler State Park on Hwy 227. The land, once referred to as Memorial Park, was donated by the Carroll county School Board, which had received it from a war veteran.
It was important to Tilley and Battery A to rename the armory after their friend, who died on March 27, 1997, “because of his dedication and his great number of years of service,” said Tilley.
“He pulled out the good in people,” said his daughter. Battery A renamed the armory for “Goose” because “they loved him.”

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