Bobby Goodman has no opinion of U.S. military involvement in Syria.
He thinks America should proceed with caution, but he says after that, it's up to others to decide.
The strange part is that, in a world with thousands of voices on the airwaves and Internet discussing Syria, Goodman, a retired Navy commander and Colorado Springs small-business owner, is the only American who has been to war there and held prisoner.
"Somewhere along the way, I said 'God bless America," he remembered of his kaleidoscopic homecoming.
It was 30 years ago.
On the front line
"You can see the strings back to that time period," Goodman said when thinking of America's threatened strike on Syria over chemical weapons use.
In 1983, America joined an international coalition to impose a cease-fire in the eight-year-old civil war in Lebanon.
The Lebanese fighting is similar to battles in the region today, but was enmeshed with Cold War nuclear tension, the Palestinian crisis in Israel that followed a string of brushfire wars and Iranian Islamic revolution fervor.
Goodman, a 1978 graduate of the Naval Academy, was on the front line as the navigator and weapons officer for an A-6E Intruder bomber aboard the carrier USS Kennedy.
"It was unclear who the enemy was and what actions might be appropriate," Goodman said of the Lebanon situation.
A string of events later landed him in Syrian custody.
Months before Goodman arrived off the Lebanese coast, a suicide bomber struck the American embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people.
In October 1983, a suicide truck bomber blasted a barracks full of American Marines in Beirut, killing 241.
Those, events, sadly familiar to Americans now, were a shocking introduction to Middle Eastern terrorism for the country - a deadly follow-up to a decade of escalating tensions in the Middle East that included the Iran hostage crisis and the Arab oil embargo.
Goodman was focused on his job rather than world affairs.
"I was a lieutenant on a carrier, in a squadron and didn't know any of that at the time," Goodman said.
After the October barracks bombing, American forces stepped up operations over Lebanon, flying regular reconnaissance missions.
But there was no impetus for an air strike until the Syrians, who had intervened in Lebanon, started shooting at American planes.
Goodman was awakened at 4:30 a.m. and told to prepare for a mission.
Helming the Iron Tadpole
The son of an Air Force pilot, Goodman applied as a teenager to the nation's three major service academies.
He made it through Annapolis and trained as a pilot before becoming a bombardier and navigator for the venerable A-6, a 1950s replacement for World War II carrier-borne bombers.
The awkward-looking plane with a big nose - nicknames included "Iron Tadpole" and "Drumstick" - saw extensive service in Vietnam, where its 18,000-pound bomb load was used to hit numerous targets.
Goodman and most of his squadron in 1983, though, had no experience in war.
"I had never seen live anti-aircraft fire," Goodman said. "I had never seen a missile trail."
That would change quickly.
The A-6s in Goodman's squadron launched for a quick bombing run on Syrian positions. They would approach from high altitude and pick up speed in a gradual dive onto the target.
"The pre-flight plan was feet-dry for 15 minutes, total," Goodman said - 15 minutes over land. "One turn, target area. One turn feet wet."
Goodman's plane, armed with six 1,000-pound bombs, was supposed to hit a formation of Syrian tanks shy of the Bekaa valley, east of Beirut.
On the radio, he heard pilots describing heavy anti-aircraft fire as he flew.
He saw missiles flying up - telltale corkscrews of smoke.
"I look forward, I looked aft, I looked to the side," he said.
Settled on six months
He never saw the one that hit on Dec. 4. 1983.
"The aircraft rocked violently forward and everything went black," he said.
On the ground, he didn't have a chance to get away.
He was injured - broken ribs, a separated shoulder, a twisted knee. He was also surrounded - delivered by parachute to the Syrians who had been shooting at him.
"I remember coming to on the ground and having my hands tied and my head covered."
Goodman was loaded into a pickup. His captors didn't speak. His fingers went numb. Then his thumbs.
He considered how long he would be captive. "You can't mentally wrap your head around 10 years, so I settled on six months," he said.
He was taken to a military installation he later learned was in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
When the hood was removed he was in a dimly lit, carpeted room with carpets.
"I didn't know what had happened to Mark Lange," Goodman said, referring to the A-6 pilot he had been flying beside.
Days later, Goodman learned Lt. Lange ejected, but suffered a parachute malfunction. He died shortly after his capture.
Trained by men who had served in Vietnam, Goodman expected torture.
It didn't turn out that way.
"I was interrogated on several occasions, I was only hit once," he said.
Goodman got by with vague answers to Syrian questions.
Four days later he got an unexpected visitor from the International Red Cross.
"I had comfort that my family and my government knew where I was and the people who were holding me were playing by international rules.
From there his captivity took an unexpected turn.
In America, Goodman's capture was national news and sparked a wave of emotion.
Willard Scott, a television personality and weatherman on NBC's "Today Show," asked viewers to send Goodman Christmas cards in Syria. The responded by the thousands.
Within days of his capture, Goodman's Syrian captors began delivering those Christmas cards to his cell.
"I spent my days reading those Christmas cards," Goodman said. On Christmas Eve, 1983, he got another sign that his captivity was different from earlier wars.
The American ambassador arrived with a ham dinner and two beers.
And then the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to town.
31 days in captivity
A well-known U.S. civil rights leader, Jackson was eyeing the White House in 1983.
On the campaign trail, he called for Goodman's release and the Syrian government responded with an invitation.
The Baptist minister was joined on his new year's trip to Damascus by other African-American leaders. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright - who attained notice later as Barack Obama's Chicago minister until 2008 - was in the group along with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Goodman didn't know they had come to Damascus on a mission of mercy until he was pulled into a press conference.
Hafez Assad, father of current Syrian president Bashar Assad, had blinked.
Earlier that day, Goodman's captors asked him to shave and shower and offered him clothing to wear without explanation. He was taken to a nearby hotel.
"I had never been a room with that many cameras," Goodman remembered.
Goodman was freed Jan. 4, 1984, after 31 days in captivity.
He came home to acclaim. There was a marching band at the airport. President Ronald Reagan greeted him at the White House upon his return. In the American media, Bobby Goodman was a hero.
Now, Goodman says, he doesn't think about the month he spent as a prisoner of war.
After he came home, he returned to his Navy career, retiring in Colorado after his final assignment at U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base.
The shootdown doesn't wake him up at night. He's not a hero. He owns a UPS Store on Fillmore Street.
"It doesn't dominate my day-to-day life," he said.
Goodman says his experience can't be viewed in the same context as present-day Syria.He's reluctant to back a course of action.
"To some extent, we're damned if we do and damned if we don't," he said.
Of his role in that brief event, he's content to let it fade into history.
"I still don't feel I was doing anything superhuman."