Second Lieutenant Terrance Graves was 22 when he died.
On July 7, 2001, the Village of Groton (Tompkins County, where his family had relocated) unveiled a memorial honoring Terrance C. Graves. His remains were returned to the United States and are interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Hamilton with his sister and maternal grandparents.
(Hamilton, Wampsville, NY – Feb. 2013) This article completes our series on Medal of Honor Recipients with Madison County ties; it is about our only non-Civil War Recipient, Terrance Graves.
Graves was born July 6, 1945, in Corpus Christi, Texas. He moved with his family to New York and eventually they settled in Edmeston, in Otsego County. Upon graduation from Edmeston Central High School in 1963, he attended Miami University of Ohio, playing varsity baseball and serving as a battalion commander of his Naval ROTC unit.
Upon his graduation, he was commissioned as a Marine Corps second lieutenant and attended the Basic School in Quantico, Va., in November 1967. Graves was assigned duty as a platoon commander of the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division when he arrived in Vietnam in December 1967.
While on a long-range patrol in the Quant Tri Province, Graves was killed Feb. 16, 1968, when the helicopter he was riding in crashed. His leadership and bravery prior to the crash earned Graves his Medal of Honor.
Graves’ citation tells the story best:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Platoon Commander with the Third Force Reconnaissance Company, Third Reconnaissance Battalion, Third Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam on 16 February 1968.
“While on a large-range reconnaissance mission, Lieutenant Grave’s eight-man patrol observed seven enemy soldiers approaching their position. Reacting instantly, he and two patrol members commenced a search of the area, and suddenly came under a heavy volume of hostile small arms and automatic weapons fire from a numerically superior enemy force.
“When one of his men was hit by enemy fire, Lieutenant Graves moved through the fire-swept area to his radio, and while directing suppressive fire from his men, requested air support and adjusted a heavy volume of artillery and helicopter gunship fire upon the enemy.
“After attending the wounded, Lieutenant Graves, accompanied by another Marine, moved from his relatively safe position to confirm the results of the earlier engagement. Observing that several of the enemy were still alive, he launched a determined assault, eliminating the remaining enemy troops. He then began moving the patrol to a landing zone for extraction, when the unit again came under intense fire which wounded two more Marines and Lieutenant Graves.
“Refusing medical attention, he once more adjusted air strikes and artillery fire upon the enemy while directing the fire of his men. He led his men to a new landing site into which he skillfully guided the incoming aircraft and boarded his men while remaining exposed to the hostile fire.
“Realizing that one of the wounded had not embarked, he directed the aircraft to depart and, along with another Marine, moved to the side of the causality. Confronted with a shortage of ammunition, Lieutenant Graves utilized supporting arms and directed fire until a second helicopter arrived.
“At this point, the volume of enemy fire intensified, hitting the helicopter and causing it to crash shortly after liftoff. All aboard were killed. Lieutenant Graves outstanding courage, superb leadership and indomitable fighting spirit throughout the day were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
Graves’ family was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by then-Vice President Spiro Agnew. Along with the Medal of Honor he also received a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
Graves Hall, an officer’s Barracks on the Marine Corps base at Quantico is named after him, as is Graves Lounge in Millet Hall at Miami University of Ohio.
On July 7, 2001, the Village of Groton (Tompkins County, where his family had relocated) unveiled a memorial honoring Terrance C. Graves. The event drew some 1,500 people (roughly the population of the entire village at the time) and featured speakers Major General Pete Osman, then-Congressman Amo Houghton and Assemblyman Martin Luster among others. The event concluded with a gun salute followed by a lone AH-1 Cobra Helicopter flying over.
In tribute to Graves, Edmeston High School awards a student with the Terry Graves Sportsman Trophy every year. In 2008 the Edmeston High School class of 1963 presented the school with a plaque commemorating his service as well as replicas of several of the medals that Graves received.
Second Lieutenant Terrance Graves was 22 when he died. In his brief time it is clear that he touched the mind and hearts of many. His remains were returned to the United States and are interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Hamilton with his sister and maternal grandparents.
Matthew Urtz is Madison County historian. He can be reached at 315.366.2453 or email email@example.com. Like “Madison County, NY History” on Facebook and visit madisoncountynyhistory.com. Sources Cited: Congressional Medal of Honor Society, www.cmoh.org. Lanning, Michael and Stubbe, Ray. Inside Force Recon, Recon Marines in Vietnam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989, Print. Grace, Tom. “Edmeston to honor War Hero.” The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY) 27 June 2008, thedailystar.com/local/x112900179/Edmeston-alumni-to-honor-war-hero. Higgins, Dan. “1500 Salute Graves: Groton dedicates memorial to fallen Marine.” The Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY) 9 July 2001, http://mishalov.com/graves.html.