BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)– The U.S. Military awards the Purple Heart to service members who are wounded in combat. Retired U.S. Paratrooper James Bryan has three of them.
“You’re trained to be surrounded by the bad guys and that’s what you want,” Bryan said.
On October 1th, 1967, a 19-year-old Army Private named James Bryan got what he wanted.
Bryan was on guard duty that night when he heard movement at the front of the camp. It was 250 north Vietnamese soldiers.
“We had a large enemy force moving up the hill and we fired on ’em. When they fired, my sergeant was killed so that left me in charge,” Bryan said.
Bryan woke up his fellow soldiers to confront the enemy. The battle lasted until the morning.
“Of our 43 men we had nine killed and 22 wounded,” he said.
Bryan was wounded three times that night, but refused medical attention telling medics to care for those who were in more serious condition. Despite his actions Bryan never considered himself to be a hero.
“Heroes are dead, the people that are left are survivors,” he said.
The army awarded Bryan a bronze star with valor for his actions that night. Seven months later found himself in a position to save the lives of fellow troops.
“I was 20 and I had 15 days left in vietnam to go home and I was called to take charge of 16 people to defend against a 100,” he said.
Bryan shot a suicide bomber before he could strike. He’s credited with saving the lives of 200 american and south vietenamese soldiers. The army awarded him a silver star.
During the course of his military career Bryan was injured 6 times. He received 3 Purple Hearts, 3 Bronze stars, that Silver Star, 3 Arcoms, and 2 Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Medals.
While he’s grateful for his decorations, Bryan said he was just doing his job.
Bryan’s story caught the attention of former Okaloosa County Commissioner Wayne Harris, who thought his service was worthy of the prestigious medal of honor.
“He’s really great guy, a war hero and an american hero. He almost gave his life for the protection of others. James deserves ultimate recognition for his heroism,” Harris said.
Harris spoke in an article about bryan’s military service. Former U.S. Senator bill nelson read the article and nominated bryan for the medal of honor. Bryan takes the pending nomination in stride.
“To me the most important thing is i got nominated, i don’t care about nothing else that was the highlight for me,” Bryan said.
Bryan has now settled in Panama City where he’s making it his mission to help the homeless he drops off food to those in need with Trinity Church.
It’s an issue Bryan says he knows first hand.
“2 and a 1/2 years ago I was homeless, I’d lost everything over night, but I was sleeping in my truck and because of that I have a good example of what homeless can be,” Bryan said.
Bryan still lives out of a camper he supports himself working as an uber driver. Though he has a degree in aviation business administration, he can’t find work.
He said he’s sent out a 100 resumes, but no luck. It’s a problem many veterans experience.
“I have hopes and dreams too and I get to live them everyday, but I would like a house one day and to be stable, and these veterans do too,” Bryan said.
Bryan’s e-book titled “Walk with Heroes,” can be purchased at irepairofpc.com