WARSAW — Lawrence Bernard Gross, Pierceton, was honored as the Veteran of the Month at the Kosciusko Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Dec. 10.
Gross was born Aug. 19, 1923, in Pierceton, to Earl and Katie. He was the fourth of seven children, which included six boys and one girl. Five of the boys went on the serve in the military.
After graduating from Pierceton High School in 1941 and receiving flying lessons at Smith Field in Fort Wayne, Gross made the decision to enlist in the Army Air Force to pursue a career as a pilot.
At the age of 23, he began training in the primary, basic and advanced flying schools in Texas. On May 23, 1944, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and received silver wings and a pilot rating.
In 1947, the Army Air Force became a separate service. Today it is known as the United States Air Force.
Gross married Athalia Dill, Pierceton, on June 16, 1945. Langley Field, Va., was the first of many places they lived. From there, they moved to Lawson Army Airfield in Georgia, Pope Field Air Force Base in North Carolina, Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Steward AFB in Tennessee, Naha Air Base in Japan and Seymour-Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, N.C.
During these tours, Gross flew a variety of planes including P-40, B-24, C-46, C-119, C-123 and C-130, transporting cargos of everything from passengers and fuel to paratroopers and bombs.
Gross is a highly decorated veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He received numerous medals and awards during his time in the service. Kosciusko County Veteran Affairs Officer Rich Maron stated, “I saw his discharge, and believe me, it’s the most medals I’ve ever seen on a discharge.”
Gross is most proud of his Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and an Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. The Air Medal is awarded to a person serving with the military who set himself/herself apart by meritorious achievement while involved in aerial flight and may be awarded for a single act of merit or heroism or for meritorious service. The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to any military officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself/herself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.
During Gross’ 28 years of service, his positions included instructor pilot, standardization check pilot, squadron operations officer, staff operations plans officer for Western Hemisphere and pilot for the General of the 19th Air Force.
Gross retired in August 1970 as Lieutenant Colonel with a command pilot rating and over 9,0000 hours of flying time.
The Gross’ celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary this year. They have two adult children: their daughter, Mary Beth, lives in Arizona with her husband, Jim Esneault, and their son, James Lawrence, resides in Pennsylvania with his wife, Joyce.
The Gross’ also have two grandchildren, a great-grandchild, two step-grandchildren and a step-great-grandchild.
“We stand up here month after month and we rattle off all kinds of amazing information about men and women in our county who’ve done amazing things and served in our military and they’ve all been quite impressive,” said County Veteran Affairs Officer Rich Maron. “I will say this morning this is as fine a bio as I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading in all the times I’ve done this.”