Bruce Anthony Brawner, 51, decorated war veteran

February 12, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Bruce Anthony Brawner, a postal clerk and highly decorated Vietnam War veteran, died Sunday of cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 51.

A survivor of the 1968 Tet offensive, Mr. Brawner's decorations earned during an 8 1/2-month tour of duty in Vietnam included a Bronze Star with a V for valor and three Purple Hearts.

On Feb. 25, 1968, Mr. Brawner and his Army unit were engaged in a firefight at Fire Base Diamond, 30 miles northeast of Saigon near the Cambodian border, when 300 Viet Cong soldiers attacked.

Armed with his M-79 grenade launcher, Mr. Brawner began firing at the advancing enemy.

"He exposed himself against intense fire with complete disregard for his own safety," reads the Bronze Star citation.

He was wounded in the side and chest during the battle by fragments from a booby trap. Two of his Purple Hearts were for these wounds.

The wound that resulted in his being sent home and being decorated with a third Purple Heart occurred after he tripped two wires of a booby trap.

"I'm not prejudiced anymore. Being over there changed that," Mr. Brawner told the Evening Sun in a 1969 interview.

"Nobody over there is prejudiced. I've seen Negroes cradling the heads of their dead white friends in their arms, crying their eyes out," he said.

He was discharged in 1969 with the rank of specialist fourth class.

Mr. Brawner, who was born and raised in Hampden, worked in construction until becoming a clerk in 1971 in the Hampden Post Office. He was employed there at the time of his death.

"He never talked about the war. He just took it as something that had happened to him. It was an experience," said a brother, Charles Brawner of Hampden.

Mr. Brawner was a graduate of St. Thomas Parochial School and attended City College before being drafted into the Army in 1967.

He was a member of the Barnburner's Social Club and enjoyed hunting, camping, fishing and golfing. He also enjoyed going to the track and had been part-owner of several thoroughbreds.

He was a communicant of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church in Hampden, where plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

He is survived by four other brothers, John Brawner of Glen Burnie, Ernest Brawner of Perry Hall, and Bernard Brawner and Norman Brawner, both of Hampden; a sister, Gloria Harvey of Hampden; many nephews and nieces; and four godchildren.

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