FFor Gary Grant, Veterans Day is a day of pride and a day to honor those who made sacrifices for the country they love.
Grant, who did a tour in Vietnam in 1968 as an infantry scout dog handler, whose unit was attached to the Army’s First Cavalry Division, said he’s glad that more recent veterans are welcomed when they come home and receive better medical care–something returning Vietnam veterans didn’t have.
“The advice they gave as soon as you got home: ‘Get out of your uniform, get your civilian clothes on because you are going home to a different world than you left,’” Grant said. “Because of all the protesting, it was a tough time. It took many, many years for most Vietnam veterans to kind of forgive or forget and get over that.”
Grant, who was born and raised in Milaca, was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, an award given to infantrymen who fought in active ground combat, a Bronze Star during his tour in Vietnam and a Combat Air Medal for his more than 20 combat air assaults via helicopter.
The Bronze Star was awarded because of the exceptional service of Grant and his dog, Major, that saved lives while his unit was on patrol.
As a scout dog handler, Grant specialized in walking point with Major in front of his infantry unit in order to alert the unit for ambushes, booby traps and bungee pits.
Grant said the dogs were the true heroes and responsible for saving up to 10,000 lives during the war. Grant said the dogs had to stay behind after their handlers left the country and continue to serve, moving from one handler to the next until eventually either dying or transferring to South Vietnamese forces after the U.S. withdrawal.
Grant, who volunteered for his service, left the army after his tour in 1968 to return to his job as an apprentice carpenter for the Marvin H. Anderson construction company, located in the Twin Cities. According to Grant, the company was one of the largest homebuilders at the time in the Twin Cities.
After the company was purchased by Pulte Homes in 1990, Grant went on to become the company’s vice president until he retired in 2004.
Grant has been married to his second wife, Joy, for 21 years, and they currently reside in Onamia.
Grant has two children and four stepchildren from Joy.
Grant said people can support veterans through donating to organizations like the “Disabled Veterans of America” and the VFW, but that support also means honoring veterans by simply thinking about and thanking them.
“If somebody knows that I’m a veteran and they just walk up and say ‘thank you for your service,’ I can’t tell you how much that means to veterans,” Grant added.