Appleton, Wis. (WFRV) – Medina’s Dave Grossman never really planned on being sent to the War in Vietnam.
“I didn’t really want to go to Vietnam so I thought, ‘Well Dave, enlist in the Navy, the closest you’ll get is five miles offshore,'” Grossman said.
It didn’t turn out exactly Grossman had hoped for when he enlisted in the Navy in 1966.
“I kind of wanted to see the world, which I did get to see on the ship. I mean, we got more than halfway around the world,” he said.
Grossman spent two years as an Engineman aboard the USS John R. Perry, a destroyer escort ship, to start off his career with the Navy.
And he did see the world; Sailing to places like Japan, Singapore, the Philippines.
It wasn’t until 1969 that the orders came; Grossman would head to Vietnam, sailing along the Cambodian border aboard Patrol Boat Riverines, also known as PBRs.
But Grossman says he was one of the lucky guys.
“According to (my Bronze Star certificate), I made 279 patrols and I was only under fire maybe four times,” Grossman recalled. “Unlike the Army or Marines, it could have been every day for them, so you know, I always felt I had it pretty good according to what some other people went through,” he said.
Grossman did have some close calls; He earned a Bronze Star while protecting a PBR from enemy fire.
But when he thinks of what he went through compared to others, one name often comes into mind– His best friend Tom Armitage.
“Tom, kind of knew that for whatever reason, that he wasn’t coming home again and that’s what happened to him,” said Grossman.
He often reads from a letter that Armitage sent to Grossman’s parents before he passed.
“(This part of the letter says,) ‘P.S. Thanks again for the letters and packages, see you soon,’ And he was killed February 12 of 1969,” Grossman said, as he read part of the letter.
There is a memorial in Grossman’s home town of Medina that honors Tom.
It’s part of why Grossman joined the Vietnam Veterans of America, to help others remember the sacrifices that veterans like Tom made, to protect the country.
“It’s just a feeling that it’s something you should do, you know the military is a different breed,” Grossman said. “Once you do something with your fellow veterans you feel good about it. I’d do it all over again in a minute, in a heartbeat I’d do it all over.”
Tom Armitage was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps from Medina, Wisconsin. Armitage was killed in Quan Tri, Vietnam on February 12, 1969.