One of my Heroes

John William Brau
My Father

Eulogy Written by John Jr. on June 15, 1997

Full name: John William Brau
DOB: 13 November 1929
DOD: 6-Jun-97
Place of Birth: Freeport, Illinois
Place of Death: Tallahassee, Florida
Wife: Dorothy Wohlfarth Brau (RN)
Married:  26-Jan-63
Children: Kevin L. Brau (USMA 85)
  Keith L. Brau (Georgetown Law -LTCDR USN JAG Corps)
  John W. Brau, Jr. (USMA 86)
  James C. Brau (USMA 91)
Grandchildren:  10
Branch of Service: USMC
Dates of Service: 24 September 1947 to November 1951
ETS rank: SGT
Highest rank:  2LT (battlefield commission)
MOS/jobs:  Radio Operator & ANGLICO/FO & Infantry Squad Leader
  & Infantry Platoon Leader & Shotgun rider for LTG
  Lewis (Chesty) Puller
Korean Svc Unit:  First Marine Regiment of the First Marine Division
  (Chesty’s Regiment)
Awarded:  China Service Medal
  Korean Service Medal (six devices)
  UN Service Medal
  Good Conduct Medal (Two oak leaf clusters)
  Occupation Medal
Campaigns:  North Korean Aggression 27 June thru 2 Nov 50
  Communist China Aggression 3 Nov 50 thru 24 Jan 51
  Inchon Landing 13 Sept 50 thru 17 Sept 50
  Fist UN Counter Offensive 25 Jan thru 21 April 51
  Communist China Spring Offense 22 April – 8 Jul 51
  UN Summer/Fall Offensive 9 July thru 27 Nov 51
In the Reserves: Founded an USMC Artillery battery in Miami Florida
  and obtained the rank of Gunnery Sergeant during
  eight years of service in the reserves.
Lifelong member:  American Legion
  Veterans of Foreign War
  Chosin Few
  First Marine Division Association
  Marine Corps Association

Dad’s dad, Henry John Brau, died when he was only 4 months old from kidney failure. Henry had served in the Army during WWI in a camp vic Jacksonville, Florida. The water purification of the swamp water was chemically based. These chemicals destroyed his kidneys and eventually lead to his premature death in his early 30’s. Dad grew up a momma’s boy and joined the USMC at the age of 17 to “become a man.” (One story that is quintessential dad….He could not swim and failed to learn in boot camp. When it came time for the swim test, dad told the DI he could not swim. The DI told him he had to or he could not become a marine. Dad reiterated that he could not swim and that he wanted to be a Marine. With that, he jumped in the swim hole and sank to the bottom. After a minute or so, the DI rescued dad and asked if he was crazy. Dad told him he wasn’t and that he wanted to be a Marine. The DI told Dad that he was the kind of material the Marines were looking for and passed him). He graduated at the top of his platoon from Boot Camp at Camp Pendleton, California and chose China Occupation Duty. He started out way up north and scooted along the coast south with the occupation forces and Chaing Kai-Shek’s forces. He was one of the last Marines out of Occupied China (I believe the city was Shanghai) because he volunteered to drive around in a truck and gather the remaining Civilian idiots who were trying to get everything out.

When Korea started, dad was in the brig. He had punched out a Lieutenant who needed it after escorting a bunch of Navy officers’ wives to Hawaii. An old gunny who liked dad gave him a choice, go to Korea for the invasion or to Leavenworth. Dad stole away on a ship headed for Japan and finally was assigned to the 1st Marine Rgmt/ 1st Marine Div. He went in at Inchon as an FO (I believe it was Blue Beach) and fought thru Seoul, up north to the Chosin. Throughout the war, dad’s faith in God was steadfast. He was convinced that since he was the last Brau Boy of the line that God would spare him to have sons to carry on the name. Many times Marines would give up during the march out of the Chosin. They would sit down and “rest for a while” only to freeze to death in a short amount of time. Dad never doubted that he would be ok. Only once he faltered…. He was getting tired and sat down next to some frozen Marines and out of instinct he felt one of their necks for a pulse. For a brief moment, dad felt a pulse and a warm neck. He was startled and removed his hand. He put it back a second later and it was ice – frozen solid. He was convinced this was the “man upstairs” telling him to get up. Since the first regiment was “fresh” compared to the fifth and the seventh, they secured Hungnam for the rest of the division to evacuate (along with some of the Army units that had made it through). Again, dad stayed behind as he had done in China to the end calling in naval fire to cover the withdraw. He almost didn’t get out in time. Sometime during his combat, he received a battlefield commission only to have it taken away when the Corps checked his records and didn’t see a record of completing high school. He had quit high school to join up and had completed it via GED but there was no record of it. After the Chosin, being denied an extension to “see Korea through” and taking away his commission, dad decided to leave the service.

Dad was a Marine’s Marine. A man’s man. He pulled no punches. He lived his life via principles. At first meeting, he intimidated everyone. He was not a big man (although he had a big chest like Chesty) but he carried himself with pride, dignity and an “attitude.” His attitude throughout life was, “I’m not tough, but the tough guys don’t [mess] with me.” He had the confidence of having been overrun by Chinese, fighting hand-to-hand and killing other men with his hands. But at the same time he was an emotional slob and a big teddy bear. The neighbor kid would come by the house and show dad his Boy Scout awards or to ask dad for a hug. He would snuggle with his grand kids. He would get so frustrated with the way America was going that he would break down and cry. I remember vividly the night of Richard Nixon resigning…. he cried like a baby for the country and the man. He had a profound respect for womanhood and motherhood. Only knowing his mother and seeing her struggle to raise two kids in the depression without a husband, he saw the strength that women have. He worshipped his mother and his wife. He knew that in this life, the most important things are not money or material, but relationships….especially that of spouses, children, parents and siblings. He had been extremely wealthy and powerful during two times in his life, and when he passed he was a small time book keeper for a Tallahassee Company. People he ran with and sat on boards with are now in the top of the richest people in the nation. He never considered them rich compared to him…. He got the answer to his prayers with the greatest wife he could have asked for, along with four boys to carry on the name and now four grandsons to do the same.

Few people understood dad… but he lived his life as a constant. Even in his mid 50’s he still defended America…. When the Iranians took the embassy and held our people hostage, the Iranian exchange students were rioting at FSU. Dad had returned to school and was walking by the “demonstration” when he saw an Iranian … stepping on the US flag. Dad walked through the line of police and removed the Iranian from standing on the flag. When the Iranian swung at Dad, he broke the man’s arm thus starting a riot.

One of the last E-mails I got from dad sounded as if he was tired. With his diminishing health and struggle to breathe with his chronic emphysema and asthma, he wrote the following:

Sixty-seven years ago, March 21st, was the first day of Spring…I do not know when the calendar was changed to designate March 20th as the first day of Spring…..That day certainly changed my life… That was the day my Father died….in his own bed….blind and hurting.. at 339 North Foley Avenue, Freeport, Illinois….I was 4 months-8 days old…He was 33…My Mom was 30….In those days, terminal patients were sent home to die….the poor were sent to the “Old Folks Home” to die…..My poor Momma….she sure had her heart and soul bruised beyond description….what a woman she was to survive – raise my sister and I – and never whined …..But I’ll never forget hearing her ask her Sister. Aunt Irma, when I was 7 or 8 years old…”Why does the Lord allow an Al Capone to live and yet He takes my Heinie away from me???”

Well, when my time comes, I think I’ll ask my Dad…”Daddy, will you play catch with me?”

Vaya Con Dios….Dad

John William Brau, 67, of Tallahassee died June 6, 1997.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on June 28 at Good Shepherd Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Good Shepherd Building Fund, 4665 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32308.

A native of Freeport, IL, and former resident of Miami, he was a combat Marine veteran, serving in the Korean War. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, he was a South Miami City Councilman, a Realtor, and business executive for a multinational land development firm. He had lived in Tallahassee since 1978, earning a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, and was a member of Good Shepherd Catholic Church.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy W. Brau of Tallahassee; four sons, Kevin L. Brau and John W. Brau, Jr., both of Daphne, AL., Lieutenant Commander Keith L. Brau, U.S. Navy, of Pensacola, and James C. Brau of Tallahassee; a sister, Barbara Stocking of Miami; and ten grandchildren.

His ashes will be sprinkled in Inchon Harbor, South Korea, where he first tasted combat.

A Passage from Nostalgia 14 written 23 February 1993

When I went back through Freeport in October 1951 on my way back from the Korean War…I went out to Oakland Cemetery…… Sat on the deck near my Father’s grave, and the graves of sister Anna Lurleen, Aunt Mary Lewis, and Grandfather and Grandmother Brau…..the grave where starting with Mom taking me there on Memorial Day, 1931, and every year thereafter, until 1944….I placed Old Glory and a lone rose on his tombstone every Armistice Day, Memorial Day and July 4th….I had a talk with my Father and with Him…….I talked to Daddy about how I knew from my first day of combat that I would not be killed because I was responsible for carrying on the family name.. My Father’s name and my name…..That belief and faith carried me through a difficult 12 months when death was all around me many times….when I had to see young men, no doubt many better men than me, die the saddest death of all, in my mind……a young death……

I renewed my pledge to have sons….I again thanked my Father and the Almighty for all of my Blessings…..I knew that my Father’s inner strength was with me and in me for my tests of battle….as was the Hand of God gently bracing my backbone and steering me through the hazards confronting all of us in my Marine Regiment……..

I have mentioned before that I am ready to meet my Maker….for many reasons, but most of all, because, I will finally be given the opportunity to get to know my Father..

I am awaiting with love in my heart….We can talk and he can tell me all about his life when he was growing up…all of his experiences….all the fun and crazy things he did…all about his love and life with Momma….his victories….his defeats…..when he won—-when he lost…..all about his Momma and Daddy…….Golly, I have much to look forward to…..I am a lucky man…….

And you can be assured, I’ll throw him the stiffest, strongest SALUTE I ever mustered….

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