Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead


By Marijune Wissmann

Jack William Grandahl was twenty-one years old when he was killed in Vietnam on February 13, 1968, during the Tet Invasion at CuChi, a city near Saigon. He was attached to the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Division, Bravo Company.

His platoon was just returning from a search and destroy mission where they had been ambushed by the enemy and suffered many wounded.

After the battle, the helicopters picked up the dead and wounded. Jack was young, but he could shoot and scout and was point man for his platoon leader. The leader was fond of this eager young boy, a sharpshooter, always followed orders and could rind himself out of any jungle.  He was born and raised in Michigan and that goes with the territory.

While the helicopters roared above, tracks platoon leader asked Jack to check the jungle to see if any more wounded lay there. A single shot was heard, Jack had been shot in the head by a sniper and was killed instantly. His body was carried aboard a helicopter and eventually flown home to Michigan, where he was buried with full military honors.

The whole town grieved for this brave young man. He was a star football and basketball player, loved by his family and friends and especially his grandmother. His grandfather served in World War I in France and his dad served in General Patton’s Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge in Europe in World War II.

A few weeks after the funeral, the local postmaster called the sheriff’s office in this little town. A package had been returned to Jack’s grandmother. Stamped on the package said, “Return to Sender, Unable to Find Recipient”. The Postmaster said he didn’t have the heart to return to package to Jack’s grandmother, it would break her heart.

Coincidentally, the deputy was also Jack’s cousin so he took the package home, opened it and found socks, beef jerky, candies and a beautiful valentine. His cousin kept the package and wept.

Thirty years later, a middle-aged man arrived in town looking for the Grandahl family. He stopped at the Sheriff’s office to find out about Jack’s family and told the story about being there when Jack was killed. He wanted to apologize to the family, as he felt responsible for the young man’s death by sending him into the jungle to look for the wounded. The family had never heard from the army the circumstances of the death and the coffin had been locked.

The Sheriff called Jack’s sister who lived in town with her family. His grandparents had passed away, as had his mother and dad. Jack’s friends came to the home and they all went to the graveside for a service. The officer was becoming more and more emotional.

Finally, at the home he told the family and friends about the battle, and how Jack went into the jungle to look for the wounded and was killed. He said he has lived with this guilt for 30 years and would never get over it. Jack’s friends decided that this man had suffered enough and invited him to stay over for a few days and see the countryside.

A day of sightseeing, a good day of fishing on Lake Superior and incredibly friendly people helped make this sad trip bearable.  A trip to the Boulder Creek Golf Course made sister Susan cry. It had been the home of Jack’s grandparents who moved into town and sold the property to a golf company. She and Jackie spent their summers fishing and swimming in the creek and fond memories.

Several years ago, I met Alhambra Mayor, Dan Arguello, at a function at the Alhambra American Legion where he told me that he had been stationed with the Twenty Fifth Infantry Division, Bravo Company.  He had been wounded very seriously and spent nine months in a military hospital recovering from his wounds.

Losing a loved one in a war has an affect, not only on the family and loved ones, but on other soldiers as well. They have memories that will live with them forever and it is difficult to reconcile the reasons for the terrible experiences they have endured.

Jack William Grandahl was my beloved nephew.

On this Veterans Day, let us honor these veterans, dead and alive and never forget the sacrifices they have made on our behalf.

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