By Katie Terou

SYV Star Intern

A World War II veteran living in Atterdag Village received a Purple Heart for his service after fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima and is now preparing to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C.

Erling J. Grumstrup, 99, was raised on a small farm near Tyler, Minn. He attended a nearby school but, soon after graduation, his family lost their farm in the Great Depression and they moved to a new farm in Wisconsin.

Grumstrup attended a vocational school in Superior, Wisc., where he became a machinist. However, soon after he took on his first apprenticeship, he was drafted for World War II. He ended up in the Marine Corps and attended training in California and Hawaii.

“I traveled to the West Coast and had a lot of infantry training in preparation for being shipped overseas,” he said.

After completing his training, he was sent into combat. Grumstrup fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima and witnessed the iconic raising of the flag there. He was wounded in combat by a grenade and was hospitalized for several months.

Atterdag Village resident Erling Grumstrup was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat by a grenade.

“I don’t really like to talk about my experiences in combat,” he said. “I saw so many young men wounded and killed, and I was close to that myself.”

Grumstrup returned to service for a few more months after recovering and received a Purple Heart for his bravery during the war. After completing his service, he went home to his wife, Selma Henriksen, whom he had married shortly before being drafted.

“She was really a sweetheart,” Grumstrup said. “I couldn’t have met anybody better than her.”

The couple then started their family in Minneapolis. They had five children, two sons and then three daughters. The children were all raised in Minneapolis and attended the University of Minnesota.

Grumstrup and his wife eventually moved to Denver in the mid 1970s, after all of their kids had grown up. He had the opportunity to work in government contract management and the move brought him closer to the cabin he had built with his family near Denver. Grumstrup bonded with his sons over hunting and fishing trips at that cabin.

“That’s one of the reasons why we moved to Denver, so we could be close to the place where we built our cabin,” he explained.

He and his wife then moved back to Wisconsin after he retired so they could be close to where they grew up. His wife later died from a stroke, leaving Grumstrup “all alone,” he said. This left him feeling lonely and looking for a way to move on.

“I needed to get out and get away from things,” Grumstrup said. “I was getting kind of lonely living all by myself.”


Grumstrup moved to California and Atterdag Village in 2008. He knew several friends who lived in that retirement home, so he wanted to be closer to them. His children visit him every few months as well.

One of the hobbies Grumstrup brought with him was music. He has always enjoyed singing and even attended music school in Minneapolis for a brief period. He now has a keyboard in his room so he can practice music frequently. Grumstrup also sings with another resident every morning after breakfast.

“Music has been a huge part of my background, singing especially,” he explained.

He also enjoys participating in the activities offered by Atterdag Village, including shopping trips to Santa Barbara, even though he doesn’t spend that time shopping. Grumstrup said he asks the driver to drop him off at Stearns Wharf because he “loves to be near the ocean.” He describes himself as a lover of nature and enjoys spending time in local parks and bird watching.

“I love living here, It’s a good place to live,” Grumstrup said with a smile on his face. “There are so many interesting things to do here.”

Honor Flights Central Coast California has invited Grumstrup and many other local veterans to visit Washington, D.C. He will attend the “Tour of Honor” in the fall, when all of the veterans are scheduled to see “the memorials that have been built to honor their service.”

To learn more about Honor Flights CCC, visit