November 14, 2020 : By Ted Allen - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
When asked about his courageous service on the morning of March 8, 1969, in Vietnam, E-5 Sgt. Clifton Ray “Buck” Krantz humbly says he did what he was trained to do, as senior radio operator for his battalion of close to 1,500 soldiers.
That he did it while covered in his own blood and with four fallen comrades scattered around him is what earned him a Bronze Star with “V” Device for Valor.
His bravery was also a distinguishing factor in the 73-year-old being presented this year’s George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award by Liberty University. The award was announced at halftime of Saturday’s Military Appreciation football game against Western Carolina at Williams Stadium, where Krantz and his wife, Minerva, and a circle of family and friends watched from a suite. The game marked the culmination of Liberty’s Military Emphasis Week activities honoring the nation’s military. A special Military Appreciation Convocation was held on Wednesday.
Sgt. Krantz, a lifelong resident of nearby Bedford, Va., arrived in Vietnam on Sept. 1, 1968, a week before his 21st birthday.
“I always tell everybody Uncle Sam furnished the fireworks for my birthday,” said Krantz, who was involved in three major offensives with the First Cavalry, one of the most highly decorated units in Vietnam.
On March 8, 1969, he was one of six members of his battalion stationed in the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) on the Landing Zone (LZ) Grant fire base, located in the jungle of Tay Ninh Province, about a half-mile south of the Cambodian border.
“We were receiving enemy rocket, mortar, and small arms fire daily,” Krantz said. “Radio operators were a primary target of the enemy to eliminate the lines of communication, and the enemy was plotting our exact location with every round fired.”
At approximately 12:30 a.m., a 122-mm rocket with a delayed fuse penetrated the
roof. The explosion killed the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Peter Gorvad, two staff officers, and an artillery radio operator.
“The senior intelligence sergeant and I were wounded and survived,” Krantz said.
Maj. Billy Brown, the second in command in the battalion, found Sgt. Krantz flat on his back while continuing to monitor the radios and maintaining communications with higher headquarters.
“Most of my wounds were on my right side,” Krantz said, noting that the boot on his right foot was blown off. “The attack continued for approximately six hours after I was injured. I continued to perform my duties, as I was trained, because I knew my fellow comrades’ lives depended on me.”
He was airlifted to a field hospital in time to hear the familiar phrase, “Good Morning, Vietnam” on the radio upon his arrival. He was medically discharged for his injuries after shattering bones in and losing part of his foot and receiving shrapnel in the entire right side of his body.
Krantz’s Bronze Star award certificate reads, in part, “His display of personal bravery and devotion to duty is in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”
“The Bronze Star with ‘V’ Device for Valor is my most cherished military award,” Krantz said. “It reflects my commitment to my country while under intense enemy fire. My Purple Heart is for the wounds I received in battle doing my part to defend my country. I did what I was trained to do.”
Krantz was later awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Medal First Class Unit Citation, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Today, Krantz serves as a board member for The Bedford Boys Tribute Center in Bedford. The center is a memorial and recognition center for the 19 Bedford Boys, including one of Krantz’s uncles, killed on Omaha Beach during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Bedford and serves as Senior Vice Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 1607, in Lynchburg, Va. He laid the Purple Heart wreath at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford on the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2019.
Previously, Krantz worked with Liberty in helping to designate it as the first Purple Heart University in Virginia in 2017 and has solicited private funds to designate 35 combat-wounded parking spaces in and around Bedford County.
On Veteran’s Day, Krantz attended a National Center for Healthy Veterans dedication ceremony in Altavista, Va., where Lt. Col. Oliver North was the keynote speaker. He remains vigilant in raising awareness for active military personnel and veterans, while trying not drawing attention to himself.
“Most veterans have stories to tell, to pass those stories onto our children and grandchildren, because they’re going to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Krantz said. “I strive to get the word out there to remember who they are, take time to talk to them.”
Since 2010, Liberty has awarded the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award annually to a man or woman who served in the United States Armed Forces and went above the call of duty, displaying extraordinary heroism while in the service and continuing to serve as an outstanding ambassador in their community. Nominations are collected from the Liberty community. The award’s namesake was a former administrator at Liberty and a World War II veteran who was captured by Japanese forces while serving in the Philippines and was among the few survivors of the Bataan Death March.
Earlier on Saturday, Liberty hosted the Valley View Maj. Mike Donahue 5-Miler, a race named in honor of the posthumous 2015 George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award winner who was killed in a Taliban suicide bomber attack on a U.S. military base near Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 16, 2014. Before the race, Liberty’s Army ROTC Color Guard presented the flag in a ceremony commemorating all those who have sacrificed their lives while serving their country.
Cadet Sam Hofer was named this year’s winner of the Maj. Mike Donahue Award, presented annually to the second- or third-year Army ROTC cadet who has provided leadership and inspiration to others through his or her unmatched selflessness, work ethic, and integrity.
“He is self-motivated and always has a positive attitude,” Army ROTC Master Sgt. Derek Haman said. “Cadet Hofer embodies the total soldier concept, excelling in physical training, leadership, and academics.”