In October of 1972, Major Walter Grand, U.S. Air Force, was summoned to the Clark Air Force Base (the Philippines) Hospital. A Navy SEAL with a seemingly-mortal head wound was inbound from Vietnam. At the time, Grand was the only military neurosurgeon in Southeast Asia. The Navy SEAL was Lieutenant Tommy Norris. The day before, he had been in a four-hour running firefight and in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin for another four hours. Tommy had his left eye shot out along with a section of his cranium. His brain was exposed and he was on death’s doorstep. Enter Doctor Wally Grand. Grand operated on him for close to six hours; “I couldn’t believe he was still alive when I saw his wound,” Grand recalled, “and I wasn’t sure he would survive the night.” But the skill of the surgeon and the toughness of the SEAL won the day.
Tommy got to Doctor Grand and Clark AFB due to the heroism of his SEAL teammate, Petty Officer Mike Thornton, for which Mike would receive the Medal of Honor. Tommy also received the Medal for his rescue of American airmen shot down behind enemy lines in April of 1972. It was the first time in modern history that a Medal of Honor Recipient received his award for saving the life of another Recipient. For the complete story, read By Honor Bound by Norris and Thornton.
In recognition of his medical heroics, Doctor Grand was honored on Veterans Day, 2016 with a chair dedicated in his honor aboard the USS Intrepid in New York. Dr. Walter Grand is currently Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at the Buffalo School of Medicine, State University of New York. Again, Bravo Zulu Wally Grand!