Hometown Hero: Gary Brynjulfson takes more than just memories with him from Vietnam

Hometown Heroes

Appleton, Wisc. (WFRV) – Appleton’s Gary Brynjulfson turns to a specific picture often for reminders about his past.

“This picture says a thousand words, right?”

He was drafted into the Army for the Vietnam War in 1967, trained as a sharpshooter and expert mortar man.

Brynjulfson shipped out to Pleiku, Vietnam  with the fourth infantry division, moving to different sites every few weeks by helicopter.

“People think when you’re over there and you’re in a situation like that, that you’re in war every day; You’re not,” Brynjulfson said.

While maybe not in battle every day, Brynjulfson had a few close calls, earning a Purple Heart after being wounded by shrapnel.

Though he says he never felt scared.

“No, when you’re younger like that you don’t– I think back about it now and I can look at so many instances that I either got missed by bullets or I got missed by mortar rounds,” he said.

While bullets and mortar rounds might’ve missed Brynjulfson, there’s something that didn’t; Agent Orange. 

“In the early 80s, they sent out a letter to us, talking about some places that had been sprayed with Agent Orange, right? Well, I didn’t know that, I never saw a plane spraying anything,” said Brynjulfson.

Soon though, Brynjulfson’s liver problems made sense. The loss of his 11 other comrades due to health problems made sense.

“It’s worse than any bomb we ever dropped,” he said.

It’s why the picture of Brynjulfson and two of his comrades on land cleared by Agent Oranfe means so much to him more than 50 years later; It shows the effects of Agent Orange and the war on the land, but also on Brynjulfson.

And he’s come a long way since.

“So many veterans, including myself, wanted to pack that police action or the war, as they call it, away,” Brynjulfson said. “I could sit around and complain about everything that I have wrong, but you know what? Put it behind you, move on.”

Gary’s passion now lies at Vets and Friends in Appleton. It’s where he can remind other veterans to see the better things in life like he continues to do every day.

“I’m in a good place, I’m also trying to give back for what I’ve got. You know, I have many things going on but, I don’t worry about them,” said Brynjulfson.

“I live with what I have and I make sure that I take full charge for what I’ve got to do,” he said.

Have someone you’d like to nominate for Hometown Hero? Let us know below!

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