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In His Honor

The Vietnam War may have ended in 1975 but it killed Marine Corps veteran John Granville three years ago this Monday.

The name of the Selma resident, who died April 26, 2007, at 58, will be inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day along with four others whose wounds in that war contributed to their deaths.

Lance Cpl. Granville lost both legs after stepping on a land mine a few miles south of Danang on June 12, 1968.

"Because of his amputations, he ended up with heart disease," explained his widow, Chris Granville. "The VA decided he died because of his wounds in Vietnam. There is a direct link to his wounds."

Chris, his wife for nearly 29 years upon his death, said she began working with the U.S. Department of Defense two years ago to get his name etched on the granite wall along with others he knew from Vietnam. She and other family members will be at the ceremony on Memorial Day.

"Vietnam killed John — it just took him until 2007 to die," said former Marine Corps Sgt. Wayne Owen, 65, of Grants Pass, owner of the Wayne Owen Fighting Arts school where Granville earned a black belt in judo in the early 1990s.

"He was an inspiration to all of us," he added. "Everybody complains, but after you saw John out there working out, you quit complaining. He had a great attitude. Nobody who met him ever forgot him."

Medford resident John Waldrop, 62, a former Marine who lost both of his legs below the knees in Vietnam on June 20, 1969, agreed that their friend's 1968 wounds led to his death, citing the long-term health problems those with similar wounds encounter.

"He was a good guy," Waldrop said, noting he admired him for his mental toughness.

Like Granville, Waldrop was awarded two Purple Heart medals. Both were wounded in action in the same area in Vietnam, albeit a year apart.

And, like Granville, Waldrop refused to let his injuries keep him down. After being discharged, the avid golfer worked in an open pit coal mine in Wyoming and as a mechanic before retiring.

"But to be honest with you, I didn't know how he could do it, wearing his shoes backwards and having people stare at him," Waldrop acknowledged. "I get a little emotional when people stare at me."

Granville, who had one leg missing at the knee and the other just above the knee, overcame a challenge to walk by putting his artificial feet on backwards. Placing them in the normal forward position didn't work, he said in an interview with the Mail Tribune in 2004.

"My limbmaker and I came up with this," he said. "It helps tip the hips back so you can go forward."

Friends and family members will tell you he always went forward, becoming a black belt in judo in 1994 as well as an instructor, working as a training officer for the Rogue Valley Young Marines and firing rounds as part of the honor guard at the Eagle Point National Cemetery.

"The first time I went to his house, he was on the kitchen counter sanding away, redoing his kitchen," recalled Vietnam War veteran Jim Hale, 71, of Grants Pass, who retired from the Corps after 20 years, rising through the enlisted ranks to become a first lieutenant in what was known as a "mustang." Hale, the commandant of the Rogue Valley detachment of the Marine Corps League, gave the eulogy at his friend's funeral.

Granville may have been shortened physically by his wounds, but he stood tall to those who knew him, Hale indicated in an interview Wednesday.

Hale, who is personally familiar with several names on the wall, said it is appropriate his friend's name be inscribed on the memorial.

"He told me before he passed that he would do it all over again, including lose his legs," Hale said. "He was very proud of the Corps, of his service. He was a proud man. There are a lot of us who could take a lesson from him how he lived his life."

JoAnna Gavlik, 29, one of the Granvilles' two daughters, said their father demonstrated by his actions that life was to be lived fully.

"He had a real zest for life, always busy doing something," she said. "He never slowed down. He was definitely an inspiration for us."

In fact, her brother, J.J. Granville, is now a corporal in the Marines who has served one tour in Iraq.

In the 2004 interview, John Granville credited his religious faith for his survival. "My cup still runs over," he said, referring to his family.

Chris Granville, who met her future husband at the VA hospital in Portland where she was working as an X-ray technician, said he didn't start out with the intention of inspiring others.

"He never believed he could inspire people," she said. "But he showed that you can continue to do things in life, that a disability doesn't have to make a difference."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

The American Veterans Traveling Tribune Wall is on display at Riverside Park near downtown Grants Pass. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch