Wayne Gross - 2nd Lieutenant
- Silver Star
- Purple Heart
- Viet Nam
Wayne Gross was a kind, caring, and spiritual person who was always ready to do something for others.
After Wayne’s death, an Iowa State alumnus and one of Wayne’s fellow graduate students wanted to honor his fallen friend’s selflessness. He established the Wayne W. Gross Graduate Fellowship in honor of Wayne’s sacrifice for our country. The recipients of the fellowship are Iowa State Ph.D. students in economics who are beginning their dissertation process.
Wayne was born June 28, 1941 in Carroll, Iowa to Raymond and Marcella Gross. The family lived on a farm about eight miles North of town, and Wayne grew up an Iowa farm boy. He helped his father with grain and livestock farming and was active in 4-H. Wayne and his younger sister, Suzanne, showed steers at the Coon Rapids County Fair. Suzanne was four years younger than Wayne, but he was a caring big brother who always included her, even if that meant sending her off to chase baseballs as he threw them against the corn crib.
Wayne was very good in school and was heavily involved in sports. He played football and baseball, wrestled and ran track. He excelled in school and was active in his faith. The family was a proud member of Mt. Carmel Parish, and upon graduating from Kuemper High School in 1959, Wayne entered a religious order. He went on to the University of Notre Dame and joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross, becoming a religious brother in the Catholic Church. His sister, Suzanne, followed suit, and entered the covenant in 1963, becoming Sister Mary Suzanne.
From Notre Dame, Wayne transferred to St. Louis University. There, he received his bachelor of science degree in biology. He continued on to Iowa State University, earning his master’s degree in economics in 1967. In 1968, Wayne entered the Marine Corps Officers Training School and became a Second Lieutenant. He eventually went on to serve in Company M 2nd Platoon 3rd Battalion 9th Marines as a Platoon Commander.
It was while Wayne was in graduate school in Ames, Iowa, that mutual friends introduced him to his soon-to-be wife, Leanne Harvey, while attending a wedding. They married April 20, 1968 in Quantico, Virginia, just prior to his deployment. May 20, 1968 was the day Wayne was called to South Vietnam, and started his tour on July 10 of that year. Wayne was passionate about the military and proud to be a Marine, so he was proud when he was called to action, and prepared to go.
On August 19, 1968, only one month after deployment, Second Lieutenant Gross met his fate. Wayne deployed his squads to provide covering fire for another platoon moving toward a densely wooded hill outside of Hue in Quang Tri Province. The advancing unit came under a heavy enemy grenade attack and automatic weapons fire. Wayne established a base of fire and immediately came under accurate fire from the hostile force. Disregarding his own safety, Wayne repeatedly exposed himself to intense fire as he moved among his men to direct their efforts and ensure maximum firepower was being delivered. Wayne’s actions subsequently led to the defeat of the enemy; however, he was mortally wounded by sniper fire during action. He was 27 years old.
Wayne’s determination and bold initiative inspired all who observed him. He contributed immeasurably to the accomplishment of his unit’s mission and bravely gave his life in the service of his country. By his courage, leadership and unfaltering devotion, Second Lieutenant Gross upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and
of the United States Naval Service.
In 1969, the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, posthumously awarded Wayne the Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidness in action” against the Viet Cong. In addition, the following medals were also awarded to Wayne:
- National Defense Service Medal
- Purple Heart
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
Second Lieutenant Gross is buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Carroll, Iowa, next to his parents.