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Gronvold receives long-awaited Purple Heart

By Staff | Apr 10, 2009

World War II veteran Victor Gronvold never thought the day would come – the day he would receive his long-awaited Purple Heart.

However, sixty-six years after his service to his country ended, Gronvold was awarded the much-deserved medal.

It came in a ceremony where Victor was flanked by family, friends and other veterans following the end of services at Barton Lutheran Church on April 5, with the American Legion Color Guard also in attendance.

Victor’s granddaughter, Jana Gronvold, read a brief news article published in an issue of the Pierce County Tribune in late 1942, citing Victor’s outstanding service during the battle of Guadalcanal in the south Pacific.

Then, retired Pierce County Veterans Service Officer Dwight Liming presented and pinned the medal on the left lapel of Gronvold’s suit. A small smile came over the 89-year-old’s face, followed by applause, and the singing of “America the Beautiful.”

“It’s quite an honor,” the soft-spoken Gronvold said. “It’s nice to have it (the ceremony) in front of many family and friends.”

Victor enlisted in November of 1940 in the U.S. Army’s 164th Infantry, earning the rank of corporal and eventually sergeant. His specialty was supply driver.

Gronvold arrived in Australia and then New Caledonia in the spring of 1942.

In October of 1942 he arrived at Guadalcanal and spent several harrowing days transporting ammunition and supplies to his company, which was engaged with the enemy. Often subject to artillery and mortar fire, Gronvold always succeeded in getting his truck through the difficult jungle road.

Unfortunately, his efforts didn’t come without sustaining shrapnel to his body from a roadside bomb.

However, because of the intensity of battle and the need for manpower, Gronvold wasn’t taken to a hospital, and he continued to serve, despite being injured.

“If he had been taken to a hospital, there would have been a record (of his injuries),” said Liming. “However, it wasn’t uncommon for soldiers to get field dressed right there on the spot and be sent back to the line.”

Gronvold was honorably discharged in the summer of 1943, a decorated war veteran. Among the honors he received are the Defense Service Ribbon; Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign medal, and other service medals and letters of commendation. However, he left without a Purple Heart.

The years turned into decades, but Liming was determined to help Victor get that Purple Heart. Since he didn’t have any records of Gronvold’s injuries, Liming needed to visit with soldiers in Gronvold’s unit who recalled his being injured. One of them, Don Monger, happened to be from Rugby. Liming said Monger provided information which proved helpful in determining that Gronvold, indeed, sustained injuries while in battle and was deserving of a Purple Heart. Liming also contacted military officials and worked with Senator Kent Conrad’s office in getting the necessary paperwork.

Five years of work paid off, and the announcement came last month in a letter from Sen. Conrad that the Department of the Army had verified Victor’s entitlement to the Purple Heart for wounds sustained at the Battle of Guadalcanal. “That was the news I was waiting to hear as well,” Liming said.

The Gronvold family acknowledged the tireless efforts of Dwight and Larry Fjellanger, current Pierce County veterans service officer, to get Victor the Purple Heart. They also thanked the Legion Color Guard for attending and Pastors Sharon Baker and Mike Pretzer for allowing the ceremony to be included with the church service.

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