Face of Defense: Army Service is Family Tradition
By Lindy Kyzer
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 29, 2008 When President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, he set the end to segregation and the integration of the armed forces into motion. For the Brunson family of Fayetteville, N.C., Truman’s order paved the way for Army service to become a family tradition.
The Brunson family of Fayetteville, N.C., have made a family tradition of military service. First row (L to R): Karyn Brunson (wife of Maj. LaHavie Brunson), Miryam Brunson, Maj. Tavi Brunson, LTC Kirsten Brunson; Second row: Maj. LaHavie Brunson, Rachel Brunson, Rebecca Brunson (children of LTC Kirsten and LTC Xavier Brunson), LTC Xavier Brunson; Third row: Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Albert Brunson, Delphine Brunson (Sgt. Maj Al Brunson’s wife).
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Six members of the Brunson family -- retired Sgt. Maj. Albert Brunson; his sons, Lt. Col. Xavier Brunson, and Majs. LaHavie Brunson and Tavi Brunson; and his daughters-in law, Lt. Col. Kirsten Brunson and Capt. Miryam Brunson -- have made a career of Army service.
Five members of the family came together last week to speak with online journalists and bloggers as the nation celebrates the 60th anniversary of the integration of the armed forces.
Sergeant Major Brunson, the first in his family to serve in the Army, discussed growing up during the period when segregation was the norm, inside and outside the military. He recalled signs designating separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks.
“And I suppose for me to go back and talk about all of the changes that I have witnessed, we’d probably need a lot more than an hour,” he said. The military, he said, “probably was at the forefront” in the movement away from segregation in American society.
Brunson served in Vietnam, and he remained in the Army when his initial tour of duty was complete. His eldest son, Lt. Col. Xavier Brunson, cited the image of his father as the key reason behind his decision to join the Army. Following him, younger brothers Majs. LaHavie Brunson and Tavi Brunson had both a brother and a father to look up to when making their decisions to serve.
“That’s what my father brought home, so a lot of the values that you talk about as inculcating from our service really had their earliest roots in the love of our family and the love of this great nation,” Lt. Col. Xavier Brunson said. “So I would just like to throw that out there to everybody and let you know that we treat this like a profession. This is our family business.
“The Brunsons have passed on a tradition of service to this nation that it was all we were ever meant to do,” he continued. “This is our calling. From the folks we married to the things we do professionally, this is it for us. And so our treatment has always come from really looking at things through the filter of our own experiences in the Army. And it's always been good.”
The Brunson family has maintained a high standard throughout its tradition of service. Lt. Col. Kirsten Brunson was recently named as the first African-American woman military circuit court judge, making her the second military judge in the Brunson family with the ability to argue before the Supreme Court. The family has more than 100 years of combined service and has deployed to places including Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Italy, Kuwait, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Macedonia, Belgium, Japan, Guam, Spain and England.
Maj. LaHavie Brunson is deployed to Iraq with 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, but made time to participate in the call while he was on leave with his family. He cited the quality of the soldiers with whom he serves and said he considers re-enlisting the soldiers serving under him as a very proud moment in his career.
“I don’t think there’s any degrading in the quality of soldiers that are coming today,” he said. “I think the ones that are coming today know what they’re up against. … They show their mettle in the fact that they commit during a time of war, and knowing that there is a potential that they will have to deploy.”
For the Brunson family, the commitment to serve continues to be a family tradition, with another niece recently making the decision to enlist in the Army. Retired Sergeant Major Brunson summed up the family commitment to service.
“She’s just happy to get into this business, as well,” he said.
(Lindy Kyzer works for the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, Department of the Army.)