2017-08-11 / Front Page

“V” is for valor

By Melissa Simon

DECORATED—Retired Major Gen. Peter Gravett, left, pins a Bronze Star onto retired Lt. Col. Martin Spann during an Aug. 4 ceremony at the VFW Museum of Military History in Simi Valley. The medal marks 61-year old Spann’s third Bronze Star, which he earned while serving in Samarra, Iraq, in 2005. At left, Spann’s family—his son, Ryan, daughter, Franchesca, and wife, Alexa—applaud after the pinning. Veteran receives Bronze Star DECORATED—Retired Major Gen. Peter Gravett, left, pins a Bronze Star onto retired Lt. Col. Martin Spann during an Aug. 4 ceremony at the VFW Museum of Military History in Simi Valley. The medal marks 61-year old Spann’s third Bronze Star, which he earned while serving in Samarra, Iraq, in 2005. At left, Spann’s family—his son, Ryan, daughter, Franchesca, and wife, Alexa—applaud after the pinning. Veteran receives Bronze Star On March 11, 2005, under intense enemy fire in Iraq, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Martin Spann rushed to the aid of a seriously wounded member of the Iraqi security forces.

Spann, who had been serving in Samarra as a combat advisor to Iraqi commandos, continued advancing alone despite the enemy fire. He eventually wounded one insurgent and forced a second to surrender, eliminating the threat and saving the injured commando, said Bill Wenger, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

“(Spann’s) heroic actions are in keeping with the finest of military traditions and reflect great credit upon himself, the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, and the United States Army,” Wenger told a crowd of about 100 at the VFW Museum of Military History on Aug. 4.


Photos by MICHAEL COONSAcorn Newspapers Photos by MICHAEL COONSAcorn Newspapers That act of heroism is why Spann, now retired, was awarded his third Bronze Star last week for meritorious service.

The 61-year-old Simi Valley resident was dressed in full uniform during the award ceremony, where longtime friend and retired U.S. Army Major Gen. Peter Gravett presented him with the medal.

Unlike Spann’s first two, this Bronze Star has the metal “V” device awarded for valor in combat instead of for meritorious service or achievement and is the fourth highest honor given to military personnel behind the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star.


HEROIC STORY—Retired Lt. Col. Martin Spann, center, sits with his family in the front row at the VFW Museum of Military History in Simi Valley before he is awarded his third Bronze Star Aug. 4. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers HEROIC STORY—Retired Lt. Col. Martin Spann, center, sits with his family in the front row at the VFW Museum of Military History in Simi Valley before he is awarded his third Bronze Star Aug. 4. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers “The Marty Spann I know is patriotic, intelligent, sharp, a family man, police officer, solider. He loves to serve his country and he loved doing what he did as a soldier,” Gravett told the Simi Valley Acorn. “It doesn’t surprise me that he would do something like this. And I was thrilled and honored to present him the Bronze Star with valor.”

Of the 99,000 Bronze Stars awarded from 2003 to 2011, just 2,400 were given out for valor, Spann told the Acorn.

“This is such an honor for me and I’m very humbled by it all. When I think of all the brave acts I saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m just in awe because I look at this as me just doing my job,” he said. “This is also for the men who served with me as advisors and the Iraqis I worked with, because they were such an important part of keeping their country safe.”


BRONZE STAR—Retired Army Major Gen. Peter Gravett, left, salutes Spann after pinning the Bronze Star on his uniform. The medal includes the metal “V” device, which is awarded for valor in combat. BRONZE STAR—Retired Army Major Gen. Peter Gravett, left, salutes Spann after pinning the Bronze Star on his uniform. The medal includes the metal “V” device, which is awarded for valor in combat. Highly decorated

Spann’s 43-year military career began in 1974 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 18. Over the years, he also served in the Army, National Guard and Army Reserves.

Although the lieutenant colonel retired in 2001, he returned to active duty in 2004 for the mission in Iraq. He retired a second time in 2005, but a few months later, Spann said, he was compelled to return to active service for a third time.

“Think of a fireman who trains for many years to fight fires and never gets to go. It was the same thing for me as a Marine and soldier. There was conflict going on and I had all this training. That’s why I kept going back,” Spann said, adding that he retired for the final time earlier this year.

Spann’s wife, Alexa, 59, said she is extremely proud of her husband’s accomplishments, even though it wasn’t always easy raising their children, 19-yearold Franchesca and 16-year-old Ryan, without him.

“I knew my husband could take care of himself and if something ever happened, there would be a knock at the door. He was wounded, but he came home,” Alexa Spann said.

“Our job was to be supportive of Marty. He has sacrificed a lot for this country, and so have our kids,” she continued, referring to missed holidays and birthdays. “They’ve made great sacrifices, but it’s made us stronger as a family.”

Aside from being a longtime military man, Spann worked for the Los Angeles Police Department from 1988 to 2014, during which time he met Simi Valley City Councilman Mike Judge, who is also an LAPD officer.

“Marty is an outstanding guy and I’m so glad he was able to get this award,” Judge said.

“Sometimes when (military personnel) get Bronze Stars, it’s just, ‘Here’s your medal, thanks for serving.’ So I’m really glad this all came together for him.”

Spann is also the recipient of a Purple Heart and the Legion of Merit for meritorious service while in combat. And he was awarded the Soldier’s

Medal for saving several disabled residents from a burning

Martin Luther King Hotel in 1998 in Los Angeles while with the LAPD.

U.S. Rep. Steve Knight (R-Simi Valley), who presented Spann with certificates from Congress, the U.S. Department of the Army and the secretary of defense, said police work is a “true calling that not many people have.”

“You put that with a military person and you have . . . someone who will get the job done,” said Knight, who also served with the LAPD for 18 years before becoming a politician. “Martin is someone who did something under fire to save someone else’s life and that’s nothing less than heroism. We’re very proud of . . . what Spann did.”

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