Spokane’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center would get a new name under proposals before Congress. Actually, two new names: Pfc. Joe E. Mann and Platoon Sgt. Bruce Grandstaff.
The medical center in northwest Spokane would be renamed for two regional recipients of the Medal of Honor under legislation backed by the state’s congressional delegation.
The two soldiers received the nation’s highest military medal posthumously in different wars.
Mann, a Reardan, Wash., native, was a member of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. In 1944, his unit was dropped into the Netherlands assigned to cross the Rhine River into Germany. Near the town of Best, Mann was wounded when he crawled close enough to an enemy artillery emplacement to destroy it with a rocket launcher. After his wounds were treated, he remained with the unit even though his arms were bandaged to his body, and during a counterattack he fell backward on a grenade to protect six other wounded soldiers.
Grandstaff, a Spokane native who graduated from North Central High School, led a platoon from the 4th Infantry during the Vietnam War. In 1967, while they were on a reconnaissance mission near the Cambodian border, they came under fire from three sides and were pinned down. Grandstaff was wounded saving several of his men and signaling for rescue helicopters. He destroyed one enemy position with hand grenades, and when he realized his position was being overrun, he called down artillery fire on top of himself to stop the enemy advance.
Eight of his men survived and eventually were rescued. They credited Grandstaff with saving their lives.
Bills to rename the center have been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and in the House by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. On Tuesday, all members of the state’s delegation signed a letter supporting the name change to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which will consider that chamber’s bill today. Murray is chairwoman of that committee.