Guy D. Gruters

Full Bio

Guy was born in Sarasota, Florida, in the early 1940’s, the first of six children. Guy was conceived before his father left to fight in World War II. Twenty-eight months later, his father returned from Europe. The family moved first to Washington, DC, where his father worked in the Pentagon, then to New York City, then to Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Guy grew up in Fair Lawn to the age of sixteen, when the family moved again to Sarasota, Florida, in the late 50’s.

While growing up in Fair Lawn, he attended Saint Anne’s Catholic school. Guy was a member of the Fair Lawn Rocket Club and also progressed through Cub and Boy Scouts, earning his Eagle Scout rank before moving to Sarasota. He also camped and trapped extensively in the Saddle River area.

Moving to Sarasota following his junior year, he played on the Sarasota High School football team in his senior year. Guy then applied to attend the Air Force Academy and was accepted.

He completed a degree in engineering science from the Air Force Academy. He was a top student, graduating with honors (Summa Cum Laude) in 1964. He was on the judo and boxing teams and also played football on a squadron team for two years. Guy also spent a few weeks in Georgia and earned jump wings upon completing the US Army parachute school at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

After graduating from the Academy, he obtained his Masters Degree in Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University. He married his wife, Sandy, during this period, and they welcomed their first two children.

Following pilot training in Valdosta AFB, Georgia, his assignment was F100 Fighter Gunnery School for six months at Luke AFB, Arizona. Upon completion of this assignment, he volunteered for Vietnam service. As a new fighter pilot, Guy was assigned to serve as a Forward Air Controller, abbreviated “FAC,” in a small O-1 “Bird Dog” aircraft. He flew low-level combat missions assisting the ground troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade by directing fighter strikes on the enemy forces.

Near the end of his first year’s tour in Vietnam, he volunteered to serve in a top-secret MISTY Squadron that flew fighter aircraft, F-100Fs, over North Vietnam. The MISTY Squadron flew low level flights to find targets and then directed other fighter aircraft to targets on the ground in North Vietnam, using smoke rockets to mark the enemy positions. They were called “Fast FACs,” because they used fast fighters for the FAC mission.

He flew over four hundred combat missions in Vietnam, first in the O-1 over South Vietnam and then in F-100s over North Vietnam. He was responsible for saving many lives and on various occasions won significant combat awards: among them two Silver Stars and two Distinguished Flying Crosses for risking his life to save his fellow countrymen and South Vietnamese civilians.

As a result of the extensive anti-aircraft fire involved, he was shot down twice over North Vietnam. The second time he was captured and spent the next five years as a POW in six different POW camps, twice kept in the famous Hanoi Hilton.

While in the camps, he experienced a thorough conversion experience and was able to finally forgive the guards that had killed his friend, Lance Sijan. The five years plus in prison affected him in many ways. He has been able to share his experiences with many thousands of people in the last twenty years as will be further described below.

He was freed from the prison camp when his brother, Terry, and others flew in a major series of air strikes called Linebacker II in December, 1972, which brought the North Vietnamese to their knees.

Before leaving the Air Force, Guy was retrained for a brief period in a fighter plane. This was necessary since it had been over five years since he had flown and he wanted to be ready to apply for a commercial pilot’s position with the airlines.

Guy tells the story of when after he was checked out in the fighter trainer, a T-38, the instructor said “Okay, now take me for a joyride.” Guy did. There were lots of twists and turns, ascents and dives, screams and hollers. The ride impressed the instructor so much that the next morning the Training Wing Commander, a Colonel, asked Guy for a ride like he had given the instructor. Guy obeyed and did what he asked. After the ride and the screams and the hollers, the Commander requested he stay in the Air Force and become an instructor for him. Guy said he was accepted to MIT for a Doctorate in Engineering so he could then teach at the Air Force Academy. The Colonel said, “I have a Doctorate in Mathematics. Anyone can get a Doctorate with hard work, but not one man in a thousand can fly a fighter like you do.”

Guy had been previously contacted by the Air Force Academy and asked to return and be a professor there, after an advanced degree. But again, as events unfolded, he declined. He elected to leave the Air Force, feeling he had put his wife and parents through enough.

He entered civilian life, initially becoming an Eastern Airlines pilot. Because of an Eastern Airlines’ major furlough in 1973, he applied for and was hired by IBM, served as a Marketing Representative and transferred to the General Systems Division. Guy was very successful as an IBM salesman. When he resigned in May, 1979, he was national account manager for the GTE telephone company, a three billion-dollar corporation comprising fifteen operating companies nationwide. Awards with IBM included the hundred percent sales club each year, an award for the best demonstration programming in the country, and a first-place finish in the majority of IBM schools attended.

Leaving IBM in 1979, he joined with his brother Terry heading up a new software company that created, sold and serviced two significant software programs for the then brand-new PC computer. One was an accounting package and another an insurance agency package.

After years of great success, the new company suffered a major setback when one of the key employees sold the tax calculating component of the accounting package to a major accounting firm and placed Guy and Terry in a difficult situation with a fraudulent bankruptcy filing. After seven years of legal proceedings, they won a major settlement and returned back to normal business again.

In addition, Guy had returned to Eastern Airlines when the seven-year Eastern Airlines furlough was over, and retired as an Airline Captain in 1991.

Guy went to work for Pearl vision in Dallas, Texas, and then McCrory Corporation in York, Pennsylvania, as VP-Management Information Systems, before moving to Ohio to work with his youngest brother, Peter. Peter had a non-profit corporation to publish and distribute books to help families and requested Guy’s help.  Guy began his public speaking ministry in Ohio, which continues to this day.

During these years after returning from Vietnam, while living in the south, Guy and Sandy’s oldest children attended college at Vanderbilt and Auburn Universities. They were also blessed with five additional children, all five of which attended Franciscan University (Steubenville) in Ohio following the move there. They have sixteen grandchildren who are also a source of endless pleasure.

To Catholic and other religious groups, Guy’s talks stress forgiveness, family leadership and the love experienced in war. To military and business groups, they stress leadership and teamwork lessons learned in the prison camps and the business world.

To further get the word out, he wrote and published a book titled Locked Up With God, which presents thirteen of his best talks. He also has developed and maintains his own website, guygruters.net, which is also educational in nature. A list of the many different talks given in recent years can be reviewed by choosing the page “Recent Talks.”

He has provided speaking tours to military bases in England, Europe, Hawaii and the Far East. These are in addition to the many hundreds of other talks given all over this country. He has appeared on EWTN on three separate occasions. He was also interviewed by Diane Sawyer on a ABC nightly news program. He has given many talks at the Air Force Academy, speaking particularly about a fellow POW whose name was Lance Sijan. Guy is the only one living that spent time with Lance during his last days in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

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