INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — J. Stewart Goodwin can tell a good story, and the stories he loves to tell most are those of Hoosier veterans.
“The fact that no city has more acreage honoring veterans than Indianapolis, Indiana, and the reason for that is we take care of 25 acres and multiple monuments downtown. And then there is Crown Hill Cemetery, that operates 27 acres, has 4,000 veterans’ graves that range from the Civil War to Vietnam, with one Revolutionary War grave, which I think is really interesting,” Goodwin said.
As the executive director of the Indiana War Memorial Museum, Goodwin is the keeper of the Hoosier veteran story and, in many ways, the keeper of the Indiana veteran psyche.
“If I am talking to people that never served — and that is 90% because only one out of 10 people who live in our country have served in the military today. One out of 10. We call it the 90-10 rule. We think it is time for the 90% to learn about what the 10% did so we can all live free,” said Goodwin.
It has long been said that Indiana is second only to Washington in the number of monuments to veterans. There are currently 46 monuments or plaques.
Goodwin believes he knows the reason why.
“We ran the numbers on each one of those and continuously what happened is that Hoosiers served in disproportionately higher numbers than just about any state based upon population. Even today, we are the 16th largest state in the country, population-wise. We have the fourth largest National Guard, not the 16th. And when you look at deployment numbers, Hoosiers are always real close to the top, so they get it. They understand what it means to protect their state and their nation,” said Goodwin.
The first American military casualty of WWI was a Hoosier.
“Cpl. James Bethel Grissom — he went by his middle name — he was from Evansville, Indiana, and he was killed. He was the first American killed in France, so what happened was he was buried in France and then after the war, he was repatriated. He was exhumed and brought back, so the tomb that is built up there — his family decided they wanted him in the family plot in Evansville, so his name is on the tomb, but he is not there,” Goodwin said.
Patriotism can’t be measured in numbers, but Goodwin believes he has a test: “Hoosiers are down-to-earth, solid citizens, and I don’t know if I have been anywhere where the people are more patriotic than they are here. I think if you and I picked up an American flag and started walking down the street, it wouldn’t be too long before people would be following us.”
Goodwin is retired from the Air Force and Air National Guard and says he has no intention of retiring from the War Memorial anytime soon.