VIDEO: Casper Veteran Wins $12,300 on Wheel of Fortune
To know Gary Wood is to be charmed by him. He's funny. He's gregarious. He's affable.
He's just a really good guy.
Which is why, if anybody should have the opportunity to go compete on Wheel of Fortune in front of a national audience, it should be him.
But it wasn't an opportunity that Wood just happened upon; he sought it out.
"It's kind of an ironic thing," Woods told K2 Radio News. "I'm sitting here on my couch, on my fat butt watching Wheel of Fortune one night and the puzzle was 90% complete except for two letters. And the player went to choose a vowel and he chose the wrong one. So he lost out and the next guy got the prize puzzle, and one of the things I thought was, 'Man, if that idiot can make that mistake, at least they'll let me on this. So I jumped up, went on the computer, and applied. And of course, the same thing happened to me on last night's show."
He said that last part with a laugh, noting the irony. But even though history repeated itself with those final two vowels, Wood did win more than $12,000 on the show.
"You have to understand, it's an all day thing," Wood stated. "They do six shows in one day and they draw your names for what position you're gonna have. And they continuously - literally from the emails they sent me to get ready, to all day there - it was 'Buy vowels, buy vowels, buy vowels.' They say it all the time. And their background is, 'You have five vowels; it's a one to five chance you get it right, against one to 21 consonants. So it's pounded into your head. And the puzzle I messed up was the prize puzzle. It had the last work and I wasn't positive as to what it was."
And so, he did the same thing that he condemned the other guy for doing.
"It was only two vowels left and I just picked the wrong one for some stupid reason," he continued. "I wanted the other one. And I just said the wrong one. I don't know what I did, but it cost me."
Even so, Wood earned $12,300.
"That's a pretty good payday for, like, 25 minutes work," he laughed.
Those 25 minutes of work were a far cry from the work he did earlier in his life.
For 23 years, Wood served in the United States Coast Guard.
"I did 14 of my years in Miami," he stated. "I was a Helicopter Rescue Crewman and, I don't know if you'd call it lucky or unlucky, but as Crewmen were, I was the lucky guy that got a lot of rescue cases. Some people never went on any, but every single time I had duty, it seemed like I went on rescue cases."
Wood said that he spent much of his career saving people, and it's a privilege that he never lost sight of.
"Remember that movie, The Guardian?" he asked. "He says, 'I don't count the ones I saved; I count the ones I missed.' And that's the truth. Once you save someone, it's like 'Good deal,' and that goes in your closet and you look for the next one. But it's the ones you screw up, or the ones you don't save that stick with you."
Still, Wood saved many lives during his time with the Coast Guard. Nowadays, he's retired. He's currently building a house, as well as rebuilding an old ski boat that he bought simply because of the nostalgia factor; he had the exact make and model years ago, back in the '80s.
He keeps himself busy and he does things that he enjoys, including going on national television and winning $12K.
"It's like $24,000 an hour payday," he said. "Not a bad gig."
Wood said that Los Angeles is a far cry from Casper, and it's not a place that he has any intention of returning to, due to the traffic and the cost of living.
"I would've never gone to LA for any other reason," he laughed.
Still, it was a worthwhile venture. Wood noted that the show did not cover travel and hotel costs; that came out of pocket. So when he went into the game, he had a strategy.
"I wanted to win at least $2,000," he said. "I thought, 'This whole trip is gonna cost us about $2,000 between driving down there, hotels, meals, everything else.' So I thought I had to get at least $2,000 and when I did, that's when I relaxed. I was like, 'Okay, now I've done enough. I can pay for the trip. And it's an experience. And it was all great after that."
Gary said that if he had any closing words, it would be encouragement to others to do what he did.
"It was very interesting and fantastic and enjoyable and fun," he beamed. "And if you've got the time, apply! It only takes 10 minutes to go online and apply. And you never know. It was literally just a two month deal for me. I applied one day and, two months later, I was in LA taping the show. We all had a great time."
And it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
The full episode, which aired on November 8, 2022, can be seen below: