Bryant inspired by father he never knew

Published 5:12 pm Wednesday, May 21, 2008

By Staff
Story By Lydia Grimes
John Bryant was just 17 months old when his father became the first man from Brewton to lose his life in the Korean war, but he treasures the stories about his father's heroism as much as the American flag presented to his family after Don Bryant's death.
And his father's legacy helped inspire John's own military experience.
Don Bryant was only 19 years old at the time of his death. He had been a member of Company F, 200th Infantry, 31st Division, when the Alabama-Mississippi National Guard Unit went on active duty.
Bryant dropped out of high school to answer the call, leaving a wife, Jeanette (now Stoshack), and his son John home in Brewton.
Bryant was stationed at Fort Jackson for a few months before being shipped out to Tokyo, on Dec. 19, 1951, which was his 19th birthday. He left Tokyo on Christmas Day, arriving in Korea that afternoon. It was only a matter of months before he was killed by a sniper while on patrol on March 7, 1952. At the time he was a platoon leader with the 25th Division.
Bryant was raised in Brewton and according to his son, John, lied about his age in order to join the Guard. According to articles in The Brewton Standard, he had been an outstanding football and basketball player at T.R. Miller High School.
The National Guard Armory is named in honor of Bryant and he is remembered as the first man from Brewton to lose his life in the Korean Conflict. Bryant was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
John Bryant was much too young to remember anything about his father, and only knows the stories he was told as he grew up. One of those stories concerns the day the family was notified of his father's death.
When the Brewton National Guard Armory was dedicated in May 1956, it was named in honor of Vivian Donald Bryant. At the time, a brother, Dennis, was serving in the military in Germany.
Mamie made it her business to see that Dennis would accompany the body home. For help, she went to Ed Leigh McMillan, who in turn appealed to Sen. Lister Hill. Arrangements were made and Dennis rode home on the train from New York with his brother.
Being a part of the United States military was a tradition for the Bryant family. Don's father, Cecil Bryant, tried to join the U.S. Army during World War I. His family was living in Mobile County at the time and his unit marched to Montgomery, where it was discovered that Cecil was only 15 years old.
According to his son, Bob Bryant of Brewton, the Army turned him loose and he was left to make his own way back home.
By the time of the Korean War, the Bryants lived in Brewton and owned and operated a dry cleaning business on Deer Street. They had four sons, Pete, Don, Dennis and Bob, and one daughter.
Don Bryant's son John followed the family military tradition.
John also grew up in Brewton and attended T.R. Miller High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Army right out of high school and became a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. He trained at Fort Walters, Texas, Fort Rucker near Enterprise, and at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Ga. He left there for Vietnam, and it was only a few months before he was shot down in enemy territory.
At the time of the incident, John said, it was the custom for there to be four helicopters flying together. There were two gun ships, a scout helicopter and a Huey holding four infantrymen. At the time of the crash, the scout flew low to look for enemy, while the infantry was set down to asses the damage and injuries to the two in the crash.
At the time John was a chief warrant officer in Delta Troop, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 9th Infantry (D3-5). He was taken to a hospital and after about 10 days was sent to Japan for a week.
John had suffered four fractured vertebrae and a shattered leg and foot and was told that he would never walk again.
True to the Bryant spirit, he did not listen to what they told him. Today, he does indeed walk. He worked for many years as an engineer with Brown and Root in Mobile and now has his own business. He sells instruments and controls in the process industries. He lives in Brewton but he spends a lot of time traveling with his business. Life his father before him, John earned a Purple Heart.

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