MAJ Aubrey Mitchell Brim, Jr., USAF Ret.

In remembrance of: MAJ Aubrey Mitchell Brim, Jr., USAF Ret. 

I’m not exactly sure where to start this, so I guess I’ll start by saying thank you for visiting this post. I’m not one to beg for blog readership. I appreciate those interested enough to let me share our little lives with you, as we’re pretty normal people trying to navigate our way through this world with as much family and love as possible. 

This post is long, but I urge you to spend the ten minutes out of your day to read it. My grandfather was truly a piece of history and led an amazing life. His story is one worth reading, I promise, and I thank any of you who choose to spend a few minutes remembering a great man. 

As I mentioned in our last post about our travels back to Kansas, we headed back to my hometown after my grandfather’s passing on July 5th. To those of you who weren’t familiar with the situation, his health started declining this past December, just after we were able to travel to see him for a wonderful visit. I will always be grateful for our opportunity to drive back to Kansas to see him for our early Christmas, which was the last time he was able to be out and about due to his health. We had an amazing week of family, full of memories we’ll keep forever. On a related note, this week, more than ever, I cherish my camera and my desire to document our family moments, relationships, memories – bitter and sweet. Mitchell is only two, and will not remember his Great Papa Brim, but he has many great pictures with him, from the time he was still a wrinkly little newborn, until he was a crazy running toddler. I wish I could say the same for Julia, but as they say, life is too short. 

We’re moving into a new season of life, where we’re the parents and our children are the grandkids. I’m sad to say goodbye to my grandfather and for Julia and Mitchell to say goodbye to their last great grandparent on my side of the family, but it’s hard to be sad about his life. He lived a very full 92 years. He had a beautiful marriage for 68 years. He was a decorated Air Force pilot with stories to tell that could keep you on the edge of your seat until you couldn’t sit any longer. He had two beautiful children, two granddaughters and a grandson, four great granddaughters and a great grandson [named after him]. He spent the last years of his life in his home just down the street from my parents, with a cute little porch covered in flowers, putting his American flag out every sunrise and taking it down every sunset. He lived a long life and left a lot to be proud of. So our goodbyes were sad, yes. But thinking about his life makes me so happy. He was a blessed man. 

I want to publicly thank everyone who came to personally show their condolences to my father and our entire family. Dee and Shorty, Aunt Christeen and Uncle Kenny, Mrs. Schleicher, Michele, Monica, you have been there for our family literally for my whole life. To the entire Shawnee Police Department Command Staff and STAR Team, who drove the long hour down I-70 in uniform to shake my father’s hand, two years after you did the same for my grandmother, thank you. It’s so humbling and meaningful to my father, and a gesture that will always be remembered. 

The Sudac family, the Hayes family, the Hobson’s, and so many others. To the Legion of Honor who took time out of their day to honor my grandfather, filling rows of pews with men I have never met that care about someone I love, thank you. 

Our family friend, Pastor Jim Heaton at Westside Family Church, continues to be a blessing to our family. From helping us say goodbye to both of my grandmothers, to praying with our family before Steve’s first deployment, we’ve relied on him to help us through difficult situations, and we cannot express our gratitude enough for his leadership and devotion to helping families. 

There are so many more people I could thank, but I feel it’s important to recognize the Pewell-Gable Funeral Home in Topeka, Kansas. After holding three funerals here in three years, they have repeatedly proved themselves as gracious hosts in trying times. It may seem strange to look fondly upon a funeral home, but they’ve made each of these times a little bit easier, and for that, I appreciate what they do. 

To the United States Air Force Honor Guard, thank you for your military service and so beautifully honoring a well-deserving and honorable Air Force Retiree. 

It doesn’t take someone to know me very well to figure out the tremendous amount of respect I have for my husband, my father, and my brother. All three are incredible people, in many ways the same and in many ways different. Each of them took a turn sharing a little bit of Papa at the funeral, and each truly captured a glimpse of his life in their message. With their permission, I’m sharing each of their speeches. And again, I urge you to read on, not for me, but to learn about a pretty incredible man who loved God, his family, and his country. 

From my husband: 

I am here today to speak on behalf of Aubrey’s military service, and in a small way relate to you the contributions he made in service to our nation. His career spanned three decades, and as many wars. He served in World War II, the Korean War, and finally Vietnam. His personal awards include: the air medal with eight oak leaf clusters, the Air Force commendation medal, the Army commendation medal, as well as numerous unit commendations and campaign medals. 

I would like to give you some context and a scale to what may appear to be colorful ribbons collected over a long career. The air medal is awarded to recognize either single acts of merit or gallantry in combat or for meritorious service in a combat zone. Aubrey was awarded this medal on nine separate occasions. This is the recommendation from the first:

“I certify that this officer has flown one hundred hours of sustained operational flights over enemy territory in the southwest pacific area. These operations consisted of successful evacuation of wounded personnel from areas under enemy artillery fire and aerial resupply of guerrilla forces and isolated until of our own troops behind enemy positions. By his complete disregard for his own personal safety during these operations over hazardous terrain in enemy territory and under adverse weather conditions, this officer has contributed greatly to our defeat of the common enemy in this theater of operations. Dated March 1945.”

He continued to distinguish himself in this manner throughout his flying career. He was not a fighter pilot. He flew large transport and cargo planes, which may sound less glamorous, but I can tell you as one of the men on the ground his job was as dangerous, and in many ways more valuable than any fighter aircraft. he evacuated our wounded, he supplied us with more ammunition and food, and he did it all at great risk to himself. 

Aubrey was a hardworking and devoted officer that I would have been proud to serve under. 

From his son and my father, Mitch Brim:

On behalf of our family, thank you so much for taking the time to come and be with us and say goodbye to our father on this day. It truly means a great deal to our family and to our father that you are here. I am quite sure no words of mine would adequately do justice to our Dad’s life. He lived through and experienced a part of twentieth century history that is simply remarkable. There are so many things that could be said but I want to tell you about what Dad taught Susan and I;
Work hard and have faith. 

Just a few short years ago, we met here in this same room to grieve, heal, celebrate the life, and mourn the passing of our mother. When reflecting on our mother’s life, I came to the conclusion she worked tirelessly to bring meaning into her existence. And she did that through the relationships she nurtured and cultivated with her family. Susan, Amie, I know she made sure that bond was particularly strong with you. If our mother showed us what life was about, certainly Dad showed us how to live it. He did this as a quiet, humble, living example. I am not sure if this saying came from the Forrester side of the Brim side of our family, but Dad was very fond of instructing Susan and I to “work hard and have faith.” If there ever were a family motto for the Brim’s, this would be it. So I would like to tell you a little bit about Dad’s life, who he was, and what he stood for, and let you decide if this is true; 
Work hard and have faith.

This photograph captures a real piece of Americana. It is a picture you could find in a history book. And it tells a tale of where Dad came from and maybe why he worked so hard, and why he had faith. Dad was born in a cabin outside of Fairland, Oklahoma in 1922. Their existence was truly a dirt poor, dustbowl, Grapes of Wrath sort of living. Now as the story goes, Mom Brim, Dad’s mother, was by herself when she gave birth to him in the morning. After she gave birth, she cleaned herself and Dad up, then went back to work preparing the mid-day dinner for all the farm hands. After all, that dinner wasn’t going to fix itself and she had chores to do. Now the lack of a birth certificate for Dad may come up a little later in this story. Chores and farm work were a staple of that young boy’s life. Mom Brim came directly from good German stock. And that meant everything was kept neat, clean, orderly, and as free from the Oklahoma dust as possible. And certainly there would be no time for nonsense other than chores.
Work hard, have faith. 

Now all this hard work and farm chores would become the demise of that little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma’s right ring finger. As the story goes, this little boy and his uncle were chopping firewood one day and his uncle chopped it off with an axe. Even if they had doctors to replace fingers before 1930, and even if there was a doctor near their farm, they couldn’t find the finger to reattach. As soon as it hit the ground, again, as the story goes, the chickens ate it. But the wood for the stove was chopped.
Work hard, have faith.

So a few years later, when Mom and Dad Brim bought a farm outside of Pittsburg, Kansas, Mom Brim was doing her best to keep this little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma working on the farm and going to school. After all, idle time is the devil’s workshop. But that little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma was enamored with a discovery he made that lay not far from the farm, airplanes. There was a small airport a few miles to the north. And he found every excuse to ride his horse over there and do anything, work on the airplanes, or clean airplanes mostly, in hopes of getting a ride from one of the pilots. 

Now on his first flight, he may have gotten a little bit more than he bargained for. His first ride was with an aerial acrobatics pilot doing loops and roles in a bi-plane. At about ten years old, this little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma was hooked. He became a true stick and rudder man before attending high school. In high school, the little boy from Fairland met his high school sweet heart, a young lady from Pittsburg, Kansas. 

Now if you came to the visitation or visited Dad this morning to say goodbye, you may have noticed a small, silver, tin coal bucket with him. Mom and Dad’s first date was to the old steam powered coal shovel down by all the strip pits outside of Pittsburg, Kansas. They bought this little coal bucket to commemorate their date. They kept it all these years and this was a pretty important reminder for Dad of their life together. Especially after Mom passed. 

They were inseparable. While they were in different grades, both were homecoming royalty for the PHS Purple Dragons. Mom kept close tabs on the young lady who was homecoming queen to this little boy, and that little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma made sure no one, homecoming king or not, got too close to his sweetheart. 

After high school, that little boy attended Kansas State Teacher’s College, now Pitt State University, and majored in Industrial Arts. He played football there, and as the story goes, as a lineman he scored a touchdown. He was supposed to block for a running back but was a little too slow so the running back pitched him the ball and blocked for that little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma, who lumbered in for a touchdown. Everyone knows the offensive line is where the real battle is fought and where the real work is done. 
Work hard, have faith. 

After 2 1/2 years of college, in 1943, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma wanted to join the United States Army and become a pilot. Uncle Sam said not so fast. First, you don’t have a birth certificate because you were born in a cabin and your mom had more important things to do than go to a hospital to have you, and second, we don’t know if you can fly an airplane because you have 9 1/2 fingers. After gathering witnesses and finally getting a birth certificate and a check of the Army Air Corp pilot qualification manual, which disqualified a man for service as a pilot if he was missing any finger but, you guessed, the right ring finger, he became PVT Aubrey M. Brim, Jr. He left college and attended flight school in Lubbock, Texas and on December 5th, 1943, he graduated as 2nd LT Aubrey M. Brim. 

On December 7th, 1943, he married that high school sweet heart and two days later began a journey that would end in Tokyo, Japan. After a brief honeymoon in Nebraska, that consisted of mostly advanced flight training, Mom went back to Pittsburg, Kansas and that little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma was redirected to Camp Mackall, North Carolina. 

His squadron was activated on 1 May 1944 as the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron (Commando). The little boy, now a twenty one year old young man from Fairland, Oklahoma, signed for an airplane and was given command of three crew members. The air echelon of the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron flew their C-47’s from North Carolina to San Francisco, where they refueled and flew over the Golden Gate Bridge and across half the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. They arrived in Hawaii with less than 30 minutes of fuel left. 
Work hard, have faith. 

From there, they continued across the Pacific, arriving at Nadzab, New Guinea in late October 1944. This is where the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma began to learn about the ugliness of war. The squadron carried cargo and passengers and air-evacuated wounded Aussie soldiers back to Australia. His squadron began losing crews to crashes in the mountainous terrain while flying over peaks and through valleys, but they carried on with determination. They commonly flew in areas patrolled by Japanese fighters without fighter escort for their protection. In researching the 318th, I learned that this little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma, and now less than 15 other pilots in his TCS, moved more cargo and troops, 7,000,000 pounds worth, in less time than any other transport group during WWII. 
Work hard, have faith. 

They moved to Leyte in mid-January 1945 and in April 1945, the 3rd ACG moved from Mandaldan, on the Lingayen Gulf, to Laoag, in northwwest Luzon, into recently captured territory 150 miles behind enemy lines. The 3rd ACG operated the base and the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron provided the resupply. From here, that little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma flew behind Japanese held territory and evacuated wounded personnel and resupplied guerrilla units with airdrops and “biscuit bombing.” This is where a little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma met a strange people seldom seen before. They were adorned with spears, sharp knives, tattoos, piercings, feathers in their hair, and bones in their ears and noses. They spoke a language very foreign to a farm boy from Oklahoma and Kansas. But these people were okay in his book; they had no love for the Japanese. Through this, all he got for his troubles was bullet holes in his airplane from the Japanese. 
Work hard, have faith. 

Now Susan and I have learned that our father could fix anything. The old saying about building a house with only a 2×4, duct tape, and a bailing wire must have been inspired by our father. No engine was a challenge to him. I think this is where he learned that skill. I’ve learned the 318th had no ground crews. That meant the pilots and crew chiefs did all maintenance, and even replaced the engines themselves to keep flying. 
Work hard, have faith. 

In June 1945, Laoag became the staging field for flights to Okinawa. And in August 1945, the group moved to le Shima. And there, on the side of a runway, far, far, from Fairland, Oklahoma, the little boy stood and watched as Japanese envoy landed in order to begin the surrender process. This freckle faced little boy from the far away Oklahoma dustbowl, with the slingshot around his neck, witnessed the end of the greatest conflict to date, in the history of humanity. 

From le Shima, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma participated in the transport of occupation troops into Japan and the evacuation of allied prisoners of war out of Japan. And this was how the little boy, with the help of one other pilot and a former American POW, by themselves, liberated… a brewery. The brother of one of his squadron mates was a Japanese POW. Upon finding him, the trio set out for a drink to celebrate his rescue. The bars were closed at that time of night, but as fate would have it, they happened upon a brewery, and making short work of the locks, once inside, they found they had all the contents of that brewery to themselves. 

One day, within days after the surrender, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma was told to gather his crew and prepare for take off. When he asked about a flight plan, he was told not to file one. Now to a pilot, this is kind of a big deal. He was told his passengers would direct him to where he was to go. After the civilian scientists had boarded his plane, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma found himself flying in large circles, at about 1500 feet, around, what was left of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 

By the end of October 1945, the 3rd ACG moved to Chitose AB, outside of Tokyo, Japan. With this journey completed, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma returned home, took off his uniform, and went to work. 
Work hard, have faith. 

He returned to his high school sweet heart, gathered her up and moved to Miami, Oklahoma, where he was employed at the B.F. Goodrich Tire and Rubber Company on January 30th, 1946. He became the supervisor of the tire production and tire quality. If you know anything about that kind of work , it’s hot, dangerous if you don’t pay attention to what you are doing, and miserable. But it was for his new bride. 
Work hard, have faith. 

On May 2nd, 1947, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma found himself with his own family. A little girl came into the world and they named her Susan Kaye. And now he only worked harder to provide for the family and make sure she would not have to live in a cabin in the middle of the dustbowl.
Work hard, have faith. 

In September of 1952, Uncle Sam thought that little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma had done such a great job flying all over the Pacific for him, that he wanted the little boy to do it again. So during the mid-1950’s, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma found himself on the Pacific Island of Guam, where he and his family lived while he flew weather missions. Uncle Sam thought he did such a great job flying into one typhoon, that the little boy got to do it 24 more times. 
Work hard, and definitely have faith. 

In December of 1958, this little boy became a flight commander for refueling aircraft in the 429th Refueling Squadron stationed at Langley AFB in Virginia. 

Now in late October and into November of 1962, two men named Kennedy and Krushchev had a disagreement about the placement of missiles in Cuba. When great men are at odds, little boys from small towns like Fairland, Oklahoma often find themselves in perilous situations. This one found himself flying missions, and directing refueling flights, between Cuba and Florida for fighter aircraft on station to sink the Russian ships if they did not turn back. And this is how the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma found himself at the very tip of the spear when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. 

Next, this little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma found himself in a small country in Southeast  Asia called Viet Nam. From September of 1965 to November 1966, he was assigned to the 11th Aviation Group in support of the 1st Air Cav. Getting shot from the ground became the norm when flying the low and slow C7 Caribou.
Work hard, and again, have lots of faith. 

My sister and I are of the belief our father’s integrity, sense of right and wrong, and sense of duty, was nothing short of remarkable. He was one of those guys who believed it. He believed in our flag and what it stood for. He believed in what he flew for and what he fought for. He believed in America and that it was good at its core. 

You may have noticed the flag placed with Dad next to the coal bucket. It’s not a particularly fancy flag. It’s a Nylon flag you can find at any store. But it was very special to him. He took this flag out and flew it every morning and retired it religiously at the end of each day as the sun as going down. Even when it became very difficult for him to move and walk, he made sure the flag was displayed properly and with respect each day. 

So one day in September 1966, this little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma found all he believed in his integrity, his love for country, and his sense of duty once again tested. 

At night a request came in for the immediate airlift of a critically wounded soldier from a Forward Operating Base. This FOB was located in very mountainous terrain during the rainy season. When this little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma found himself presented with the request, he explained to the tower and his commander the conditions were well outside parameters that permitted his squadron to fly. He was told this time it was “pilot’s discretion.” In other words, no one wanted to take responsibility to say “no” to the evacuation, but no one wanted to take responsibility for what was likely going to be the loss of the pilot and crew if they tried the evacuation. And so he made the decision to fly his aircraft, loaded with his crew and two medics from the An Khe to the FOB at night, through the mountains, under rainy and foggy conditions, and landed on an airstrip held by the enemy on one end and by us on the other. 

They gathered the wounded soldier and flew back out past the enemy holding the airstrip at the other end. While they may have surprised the NVA going in because American aircraft like this did not fly at night, they were waiting for him coming out. He flew out past the waiting NVA and into the night headed for the Bong Son Airfield on the coast. On this particular night there was no radar on Bong Son to vector in on and the little boy was forced to fly below the cloud cover to locate the Air Base. Below the clouds means down where the mountains are. 
Work hard, and have a lot of faith. 

As he left Viet Nam to return home, he was told to “put in for any medals you think you deserve.” He put in for none. Now he never knew the fate of the soldier they evac’d out. I choose to think somewhere there is a family who has enjoyed many Christmases, birthdays, and ball games, with lots of children and grandchildren, because Dad made up his mind and said, “I’ll come get you.” 

After returning to the good old USA, this little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma was assigned to the 17th Airlift Squadron. His flight records indicate he visited every continent but Antarctica. And flew to virtually every country not under the control of the Soviet Union. 

At the end of his career as a United States Air Force pilot, this little boy with the freckles from the dustbowl cabin, with the slingshot around his neck, had flown 8500 hours with 1000 of those hours under combat conditions in countless kinds of aircraft. 

In 1970, he moved his family to Topeka, Kansas to be close to his home and family in Pittsburg, Kansas, close to his sister, and close to Forbes AFB. He began working at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant on the graveyard shift. Again, hot miserable, dirty, noisy, and dangerous work. 
Work hard, have faith. 

When his father passed in 1975, he returned home to help. The first thing he was told by his mother was, “Bud, your father has passed away, but you better go get those cattle at Fort Scott and get them unloaded.” You see, Dad Brim had just loaded his truck with cattle he purchased for the Hull and Dillon packing plant in Pittsburg. You can mourn later, right now you have chores to do. 
Work hard, have faith. 

After the farm was sold and Mom Brim moved to a small apartment in Miami, Oklahoma, that little boy would travel there one weekend out of every month to visit, not once missing the designated weekend. When Mom would call and say, “Bud, I need you to…” he would get off work from the graveyard shift at Goodyear, drive to Miami, take care of whatever she needed, drive home, and go back to work that night. 
Work hard, have faith. 

During this season of his life, his mother came to visit his sister in Topeka. While she was there, his mother suffered a stroke and never fully recovered, although she lived for another six years. Everyday, the little boy from Fairland, Oklahoma would work all night for his family at the rubber plant, come home, shower, sleep for a few hours, and then visit his mother every afternoon. He didn’t miss a day until her passing. 
Work hard, have faith. 

In the last years of his life, as his wife began to suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, a process that progressively worsened over nine years, he cared for her every day, and every night, until her passing after 68 years of marriage. He never missed a minute. He cared for her so well many of the other ladies who lived in the same facility took note and thought they would like for him to take care of them after Mom passed. But try as they might, he never thought of anyone else but his sweetheart. They’re known as the “Notebook” couple because of the way in which he would take care of Mom. 
Work hard, have faith. 

My Dad then pulled out my grandfather’s bible and said, “For Dad, his faith and his life were not two separate things, but they were intertwined. His most precious things were to be found in his bible.” He held up an old, tattered bible, and explained that it was given to him at his baptism. It was a lot thicker than just the 66 books of the bible. It was filled with all sorts of things, from pictures of Amie, to memorabilia from my own baptism, to a good report card for my Dad, which he claimed to be one of few – the reason my grandfather thought it was worth keeping. He wrote in the dates of my cousin Amie’s birth, my birth, Colby’s birth, both anniversary dates for Amie and I, and as many great grandchildren as he could before he could no longer write in that tiny little font to keep it all in there. Then, my Dad’s handwriting took over, adding more great grandchildren, at my grandfather’s request. 

My dad concluded his message by leaving us with this: He was a Veteran of WWII, Korea, the Cold War, and Viet Nam, he modeled integrity and honor, he modeled sacrifice and love for his family. He loved his sweetheart faithfully and deeply through all seasons of their lives. 
And he taught us to work hard, and have faith. 

Also in his bible was the poem, High Flight, written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., also a pilot, and read to us by my brother: 

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunwards I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth 
Of sun-split clouds – and done a thousand things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swing
High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air,
Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high interspersed sanctity of space, 
Put out my hand, and touched the face of god. 

And so we wrapped up the “funeral” celebration of my grandfather. We moved on to smiling and laughing and eating steak, because that’s what he would have really wanted. Oh how we wished he and my grandmother could see all five of their great grandchildren laughing and playing together. By my Dad’s order, Papa treated us to a family dinner at the Hereford House, because it was the only place he would have picked and he would never let anyone else pay. We filled up the banquet room with family and laughter and love, knowing it’s exactly what he would have wanted. 

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this post, I offer you a sincere thank you. I’ll leave you with this video, which I put together highlighting my grandfather’s life with a music that could not be more appropriate: 

“I’ll Fly Away” Johnny Cash

4 thoughts on “MAJ Aubrey Mitchell Brim, Jr., USAF Ret.

  1. Kourtney, we send our most sincere condolences.
    Your grandfather sounds like he was one of the greats.
    Thank you for sharing his remarkable life. He is the definition of a true American Hero.


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