Retiring Mesa Public Works Director and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Col. Bruce Crandall (ret.) is the 2022 Grand Marshal for the East Valley Veterans Day Parade in downtown Mesa Nov. 11.
The Tempe resident received the Medal of Honor for valor in the Vietnam War as a helicopter pilot and company commander in the 1st Air Cavalry.
“As depicted in the film We Were Soldiers, under intense fire, Crandall waited for wounded men to be loaded into his unarmed Huey, refusing to take off until he had filled the cargo bay with soldiers in desperate need of medical attention,” parade organizers said in a release.
As he headed back to base, he heard radio chatter from infantrymen still on the ground, badly outnumbered by enemy soldiers and running low on critical supplies and ammunition.
After unloading the wounded back at base, he and Captain Ed Freeman, who also earned the Medal of Honor, volunteered returned with their helicopters loaded with as much water and ammunition as they could carry.
Taking enemy fire inside the actual landing zone after they off-loaded the supplies, they reloaded their helicopters with wounded men and raced back to the base hospital.
“Many considered the 22 flights made by Crandall and Freeman in the first 14 hours of the three-day battle to be suicide missions,” organizers said.
The “Medal of Honor” third edition states that Crandall “kept coming back into the heavy enemy fire because he knew there was only a ‘magic minute’ to get badly wounded soldiers off the battlefield and into medical treatment.
“That day, Crandall and his wingman evacuated more than seventy wounded and delivered the ammunition and supplies that kept the Americans from being overrun.”
In total, Crandall flew 900 missions during the Vietnam War.
Eventually shot down by the North Vietnamese and breaking his back in the crash, he recovered and went on to serve as a commander of engineers for the Army.
After the war, he trained military helicopter pilots.
In honor of and recognition for his courage, valor and service, a grateful nation awarded Crandall two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart, in addition to the Congressional Medal of Honor. He has been nominated for a second Medal of Honor.
“We are honored to have Colonel Bruce Crandall serve as this year’s Parade Marshal,” said East Valley Veterans Parade Association President Lisa Sandoval.
“He typifies the outstanding work and sacrifices made by our veterans and active military who we seek to recognize and thank through this annual parade.”
The East Valley Veterans Parade Association is an all-volunteer community event organization that relies on the generosity of local businesses, organizations, and individuals to accomplish this collective patriotic tribute.
Information about the parade: evvp.org.