By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- While in combat, they may be green, tan or black, but the colors they fight for and are willing to die for are red, white and blue, and they deserve to be honored and remembered.
After his freshman year at Pennsylvania State University in 1942, Jack Grossett joined the U.S. Army and it forever changed his life.
At 90, Mr. Grossett remembers his time fighting in World War II with a twinge of sadness and a heavy heart for the people that were there one day and gone the next.
"I don't like to talk about the war much," said Mr. Grossett, who is also a former Vero Beach mayor and lives in Vero Beach at Indian River Estates.
"In times of action, you can do a lot of things, but it's hard to look back and see what was happening and see you lost a lot of friends," he said.
His military career took him to various exotic locales, including North Africa, Italy and France, and through frigid cold and sweltering heat.
While in Italy, Mr. Grossett was involved in the Battle of Anzio in 1944 and was stuck on Anzio Island for 142 days with enemies surrounding them.
"It was a catastrophe," Mr. Grossett said.
It is estimated that during the battle, the allied forces sustained 7,000 killed and 36,000 wounded or missing and German losses were about 5,000 killed and 30,500 wounded or missing and 4,500 captured.
Even though some of the memories were ugly, there were a few exciting and redeeming moments Mr. Grossett will remember forever.
"One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was seeing Mount Vesuvius let go, boy, was it a sight," Mr. Grossett said.
"There was all this red, molten lava rolling down the mountainside, just like you see in the movies, except I was seeing it in person," he said.
While in France participating in what would be known as the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Grossett was assigned to a 32,000-pound tank in an advance observation group, and was in direct combat for days on end.
After one particularly fierce tank fight in a picturesque French town, Mr. Grossett was awarded the Bronze Star medal and commended for his combat experience.
"He complimented me and said 'you have seen more combat than anybody else in our infantry. You can go home.'" Mr. Grossett recalled.
"And I got to go home one week before the war ended," he said.
After retirement, Mr. Grossett, and his now-deceased wife, moved to Vero Beach, and he became involved with various civic and city organizations, and was eventually elected mayor.
Among his accomplishments while an elected city official was successfully adding high-rise construction regulations and beach improvements.
"On this Fourth of July, people should remember that the freedom they have to drive their own cars, travel and have whatever career they desire, came with a price," Mr. Grossett said.
"Remember the people that fought to get them those freedoms. War is hell. No one wins in a war. The freedoms we have in this country cost us dearly in the lives of women and children."