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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Dedication Ceremony
Mann-Grandstaff VAMC [formerly Spokane VAMC]
Spokane, WA
August 21, 2013

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki Dedication Ceremony Mann-Grandstaff VAMC [formerly Spokane VAMC] Spokane, Washington August 21, 2013

Good morning, everyone.

Lawrence, thank you for that kind introduction. Let me also acknowledge:

  • The families and friends of Pfc. Joe Mann and SFC Bruce Grandstaff, especially Byrne Bennett and Tami Grandstaff-Chamberlain;
  • Senator Murray and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers—our thanks to you and your colleague, Senator Cantwell, for sponsoring the legislation that enables today's ceremony;
  • Tjalke Notermans and the distinguished representatives of the town of Best, Holland. We extend our warmest welcome to you, and deepest gratitude to the people of Best, who honor the memory of American Soldiers who fell there almost 70 years ago. Our ties as nations date back to the American Revolution. As President Obama has said:
  • "Without the Netherlands there wouldn't be a United States of America." Thank you for travelling to bridge that history by being with us today.
  • Mayor Condon and Mayor Johnson;
  • Ms. Tonya Riordan of Senator Cantwell's office;
  • Director Linda Reynolds, and the tremendous staff of the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center—my thanks for the great work you do;
  • Serving military personnel, fellow Veterans, other distinguished guests, ladies & gentlemen:

I am honored to be here with you this morning. I know this is a bittersweet day, not only for the Mann and Grandstaff families, but for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and all Americans who honor the memory of those who offered their lives on the altar of freedom.

I am privileged to participate in this rededication ceremony, memorializing two heroes, who fought in two different wars—but were united by courage and unwavering devotion, not only to duty, but also to their comrades.

Courage has never been found wanting in our combat formations. Over America's 237-year history, our military missions may have changed, but the Soldiers who execute them out have not. They live and serve by such values as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage. With these values to guide them, they safeguard all of us and our way of life. We are indebted to them all.

From their ranks come the few who willingly give more and sacrifice all, to ensure the success of the mission and to protect their comrades. These are the larger-than-life heroes, who have earned our Nation's highest award for valor: the Medal of Honor.

From their citations, the choices taken by Private Joe Mann and Sergeant Bruce Grandstaff reverberate with character and courage that defy understanding.

  • In 1944, in the closing months of the war in Europe, Private First class Joe Mann was a scout in the 101st Airborne Division. Near the town of Best, Holland, his platoon—missioned to seize a bridge, was surrounded, outnumbered, and outgunned by enemy forces. Lead scout Private Mann, disregarding his own personal safety, boldly crept to within bazooka range of an enemy artillery position and destroyed an 88mm gun and an ammunition dump. Fearless, and in spite of heavy enemy fire, he remained in his exposed position and, with his M-1 rifle, killed the enemy one by one until he was wounded four times—one bullet in each shoulder and arm. Despite his multiple, serious, and painful wounds, he insisted, as a scout, on moving forward to stand guard during the night. The following morning, the enemy launched a coordinated attack, lobbing hand grenades to clear the way as they moved forward. One grenade landed within a few feet of Private Mann. Unable to use his wounded arms, which were bandaged to his body, he yelled out "grenade!" And threw his body on top of it, absorbing its full blast and sacrificing his life to save his comrades.
  • Twenty-three years later, Sergeant First Class Bruce Grandstaff was serving as acting platoon leader, when his platoon was flanked and ambushed in Pleiku Province, Vietnam. With enemy fire raking his platoon from three directions, causing several casualties, Sergeant Grandstaff ran 30 meters through intense, intersecting enemy fire, going to the aid of his men and saving the life of one. Fixed and unable to maneuver his unit, he adjusted artillery fire to within 45 meters of his position. When helicopter gunships arrived, he crawled outside the protection of his defensive perimeter twice to mark his friendly location with smoke grenades. Wounded, but realizing the smoke had not penetrated up through the jungle canopy, he returned to his radio and, refusing medical aid, adjusted the artillery even closer as the enemy advanced. Recognizing the need for additional firepower, he again braved the enemy fusillade, crawled to the edge of his position, and fired several magazines of tracer ammunition through the jungle canopy. He succeeded in designating his location to the gunships but was again wounded. In intense pain and bleeding profusely, he crawled to within 10 meters of an enemy machine gun and destroyed the position with hand grenades, while receiving additional wounds. Rallying his remaining men to withstand the enemy assault, he realized his position was being overrun and called for artillery fire directly on his location. SFC Grandstaff continued to fight until he was mortally wounded by an enemy rocket.
  • The army trains vigorously to prepare its Soldiers for the rigors of combat, but it cannot train Soldiers as these two to scale the ramparts of courage and selfless sacrifice. Both men came to the Army with inner cores born and bred of their families and the communities that raised them. They were tough, fearless, and unselfish towards others, repeatedly risking themselves for their comrades. They are unique, uncommon, and worthy of memorialization.

In the deadly heat of battle, trust in one another kept them fighting, despite the overwhelming odds, the fear, the pain, and any thoughts of personal safety. We can't quantify this kind of bravery; we can't explain it; but the selfless choices made by the soldiers we honor today are proof that it exists in the formations where soldiers promise one another—

  • I will always place the mission first.
  • I will never accept defeat.
  • I will never quit.
  • I will never leave a fallen comrade.

We, in VA, are honored that the lives of Joe Mann and Bruce Grandstaff will be memorialized for all time through this outstanding medical facility. In their memory, the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center rededicates itself to delivering world-class, high-quality, compassionate care to the men and women, who like Joe Mann and Bruce Grandstaff, carry the heavy burden of our Nation's defense.

It's been said, "Poor is the nation that has no heroes, but beggared is the nation that has, and forgets them." In an age where the term "hero" is often over used, those we remember today left a magnificent legacy of American exceptionalism. Today's dedication ceremony ensures that the spirit of Private Mann and Sergeant Grandstaff will remain forever young, forever brave, here on this campus--where their stories will be told and retold and remembered, from generation to generation.

God bless our men and women in uniform; God bless our Veterans. And may God continue to bless this great Nation of ours and our steadfast friend and ally, the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Thank you.