Room For One More Veteran?

It is February 1973. The first of the Vietnam POWs are returning home. Most would salute and carry on. Air Force Captain Al Brudno saluted too, but four months later took his own life: the first of the prisoners to die.

"It was as if he was bleeding internally, in the heart and in the mind, and nobody saw it," says his younger brother Bob Brudno.

And as CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports, Bob Brudno will never, ever forget.

"I don't think he was capable of surviving by himself," he says of his older borther. "Somebody said, 'Maybe you'll reach closure.' For what?"

Al Brudno was an F-4 pilot, an MIT graduate and an aspiring astronaut when he was captured. He spent seven and a half years as a POW.

After the war the Vietnam Memorial would be built and years would pass before Bob Brudno finally asked to have his brother's name added to it. And the answer stunned him. Vietnam Memorial Fund president Jan Scruggs said vets who committed suicide back in the U.S. were not welcome on the wall.

"It didn't matter to him," says Bob Brudno. "He just saw suicides as, I don't know, maybe a weakness of some sort -- like there was a choice my brother had."

CBS News asked Mr. Scruggs several times for comment. He declined.

In a press release, Scruggs said he had the greatest sympathy for the Brundo family, but that to allow Al Brudno's name on the wall would violate its purpose: to honor those who died in combat and invite consideration for thousands of other suicides. Bob Brudno disagrees.

"He was tortured by the enemy in direct combat, pulled up to the ceiling with his arms behind his back until he couldn't stand it any longer, and he needed help, and he didn't get it," says Brudno. "That's why I want his name on the wall.

"A couple of inches of granite is a small thing to ask from this country to recognize what he went through."

The Air Force has recommended that Brudno's name be added to the wall. The Pentagon is expected to make a final decision soon.
  • Jaime Holguin

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter