When Army Sgt. 1st Class Bruce A. Grandstaff volunteered for duty in Vietnam in 1966 he left his two young daughters behind. When he lost his life on May 18, 1967, in Pleiku Province, Vietnam, Grandstaff left not only a legacy of heroism for saving at least eight of his men and giving warning to other platoons, he also left personal legacy of bravery for his children.
“He was the primary caretaker for my sister and I,” said Grandstaff’s daughter Tami Grandstaff-Chamberlain, standing next to the new monument last week. “He had two little girls. It was a huge responsibility for him to be a father and a soldier at the same time.”
Grandstaff-Chamberlain said her grandparents stepped in and raised her and her sister, and over the years she spent countless hours sitting at her dad’s grave.
“I studied my daddy’s story – I wanted everyone to know my dad’s story – how there were 30 soldiers surrounded by 700 troops, and how they fought,” said Grandstaff-Chamberlain. “This brings him to life for me.”
On Patriots Day, Saturday, a monument will be dedicated to Grandstaff at Greenwood Memorial Terrace. Grandstaff was a North Central High School graduate so the school’s band will play and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Spokane Mayor Mary Verner will speak.
It’s Sue Walker, representing the Spokane Historical Committee and the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum, and Duane Broyles, president of the Fairmount Memorial Association, who are the driving forces behind erecting this monument.
“Be careful what you tell those two,” Grandstaff-Chamberlain said jokingly, “they’ll just make it happen.”
The idea for the monument took off last year when Grandstaff-Chamberlain was visiting Spokane from Texas. She has since moved here with her family, but last summer during a difficult time in her life she found herself once again at her father’s grave.
“I sat there by his grave and I asked, ‘Can you help me, Daddy?’ ” Grandstaff-Chamberlain said. “When I got back home I heard from Sue Walker about the monument and before I knew it I was moving back here.”
Broyles said he’s delighted to do something for a hometown hero.
“Spokane has many well-kept secrets, like our heroes and the movers and shakers who helped create this city,” Broyles said. “You look at their graves and you see the day they were born and the day they died. Monuments like this one tell the story of what happened in between those two dates, they tell the story of that little hyphen.”
Grandstaff was born on June 2, 1934, in Spokane. He graduated from North Central High School in 1952 and attended what was then Eastern Washington State College. On Aug. 17, 1954, he joined the U.S. Army. The day he lost his life in 1967 he was part of Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
As part of Operation Francis Marion, which was aimed at protecting the la Drang Valley from the North Vietnamese Army, Grandstaff was one of 30 soldiers surrounded by an estimated 700 enemy troops. During a five-hour siege, Grandstaff, who was wounded in both legs, continued to fight and encourage his men. Overwhelmed by the enemy, Grandstaff finally called in a strike on his own position.
At the time of his death, Grandstaff had already been awarded the Silver Star for courage and valor during another battle along the Cambodian border. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and Broyles said Grandstaff is the only Spokane-born recipient of the nation’s highest honor for heroism under fire. The Grandstaff Memorial Library was dedicated in his memory at Fort Lewis, Wash.
As she researched her father’s history, Grandstaff-Chamberlain came in contact with some of the men who fought alongside him.
“And now I will be meeting them. It blows my mind that I will be able to talk to the men who were there with my dad – I am so grateful for that,” said Grandstaff-Chamberlain. “Sometimes I feel like this was all orchestrated by the man above. It was my dad who planted the seeds of faith in me. He gave me the most valuable present that he could, before he left.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter