Rockne Roll/News-Register##Family members of Gunnery Sgt. Percy Brandon escort his casket to a waiting hearse following a funeral service at Evergreen Chapel in McMinnville on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Family members of Gunnery Sgt. Percy Brandon escort his casket to a waiting hearse following a funeral service at Evergreen Chapel in McMinnville on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ken Buckles, top left, addresses a standing-room-only crowd during a funeral service for Gunnery Sgt. Percy Brandon at Evergreen Chapel in McMinnville on Wednesday, Jan. 20
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ken Buckles, top left, addresses a standing-room-only crowd during a funeral service for Gunnery Sgt. Percy Brandon at Evergreen Chapel in McMinnville on Wednesday, Jan. 20
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Goodbye and Semper Fi

Percy Eugene Brandon, known widely by his nickname, salted his language with terms he’d learned as a young Marine in the Korean War, then perfected while training recruits on Parris Island and fighting with the Magnificent Bastards in Vietnam. But many of those who remembered him at his Wednesday funeral used a four-letter word he wouldn’t have applied to himself.

Hero.

To his younger brother, Bill, Gunny was his hero long before he joined the Marines. He was a mentor and a friend, and he loved his family, his brother said.

To fellow service members, Gunny was a hero because of his bravery in war. After all, he returned home with four Purple Hearts.

And after recovering from extensive injuries, he showed more heroism, this time by fighting for the proper treatment of veterans. 

To Ken Buckles, who recruited veterans to speak at living history events, Gunny was a hero because he inspired students and taught them about the important role played by men and women who served. 

To members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Gunny was not only a hero, but “an adopted son and friend,” said Steve Bobb, a Marine veteran who serves on the tribal council.

He and fellow councilor Jack Giffin Jr. presented a blanket to Gunny’s family. The blanket signifies he will be “forever surrounded by love and always be in the hearts of the people.”

During the funeral, held at the Evergreen Chapel on the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum campus, friends, relatives and fellow veterans packed the pews. They began lining the walls when seats ran out.

Each person had a story, if not several, about meeting Gunny, sharing laughs with him, getting help from him or swapping service stories with him.

Gary Arnold recalled comparing Vietnam experiences with Gunny after they met in the 1980s.

Both took up volunteering with the museum, and they flew together to look at exhibits at other museums. They also went to New York together to see if they could acquire an Iwo Jima statue museum founder Del Smith wanted to bring to McMinnville.

The statue had special meaning for Gunny, as his older brother was killed on Iwo Jima in World War II. When their negotiations failed, he had a replica built for his own yard.

Arnold called Gunny “a brother” and a “very, very special human being.” 

“He was the truest hero I’ve ever had the honor to meet,” he said. “I’m gonna miss him.”

During the funeral, a line of motorcycles stood outside the Evergreen Chapel, waiting for police and members of the American Legion Riders to lead a procession in Gunny’s honor. The Yamhill County Veterans Honor Guard stood with rifles ready, preparing to fire a salute. 

Music punctuated the event.

Malinda Buckles sang “Wing Beneath My Wings,” the same song she’d sung to Gunny a few weeks before his death. “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?” the lyrics begin.

“Amazing Grace” and “Taps” were featured as well. The service began with a trumpet playing — what else? — “The Marine Corps Hymn.”

“First to fight for right and freedom

And to keep our honor clean;

We are proud to claim the title

of United States Marine.”

The last verse of the song claims that Marines will guard the streets of Heaven. One of the funeral speakers referred to that line, as well, figuring that Gunny, who died Jan. 10 at age 80, is already there, marching tall and proud.

Not so, said another speaker, Jim Willis, recently retired director of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. Other Marines are guarding Heaven’s streets.

Gunny’s up there, though, Willis said. He’s the one in charge.

Comments

macgreg

It was a honor to have known him.Semper Fi

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