Brig. Gen. Edward N. Brya – 1938 to 2005

“Even Generals Had Misty Eyes”
Published Tuesday, October 4, 2005

It is hard for an Air Force man to move into a Marine community and command respect, but Ed Brya did it.

The respect was evident Monday morning when a bevy of retired generals and colonels and a church full of people who were grateful to have known retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward N. Brya paid their last repects. Even the generals had misty eyes.

His military career was distinguished, but so were his retirement years. The general became engaged in civic life. For a number of years, he was a member of the Rotary Club of Port Royal (now known as the Rotary Club of Lowcountry). He was a member of the 1992-93 class of Leadership Beaufort. He served on the Audit Review Committee of Beaufort County’s 2010 Study, and he served as chairman of the Beaufort County Aviation Board from 1998-2001.

Edward R. Brya succinctly summed up his father: “He was a people person who took his energy from others.” Andrula Weiland, who was the general’s secretary for five years, said he always made people feel special. “He never looked down on anyone.” Retired Marine Col. John Payne said “he was a hard working, detail-oriented person when he was committee co-chair of the 2003 Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina convention in Beaufort.

Brya was passionate about his faith, his family and life in general. He was a patriot in the greatest sense of the word. His military decorations say a lot about this workhorse pilot. The general was a command pilot who logged more than 6,000 hours in the cockpit. His military decorations and awards include The Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, Vietnam Service Medal with eight service stars and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm.

Armed with a political science degree from Loyola Marymount University, he became a second lieutenant in 1960 and spent 31 years setting an example for Air Force men and women — and others. He flew the Air Force’s workhorse planes — the C130 Hercules and the B-52 bomber. He served three years in Okinawa as an instructor pilot on missions to Southeast Asia, including leaflet drops in North Vietnam. During 1969 and 1970, he and his B-52 crew flew from Guam on “Arc Light” strategic bombing missions in Southeast Asia.. While stationed in Taiwan during the 1972 North Vietnamese Spring Offensive, he designed and flew both the low- and high-level airdrop tactics that relieved the siege of An Loc. He was a part of the mission to Hanoi that returned the first group of prisoners of war in 1973.

Later he served in other top-level positions for another 19 years in Washington, D.C., Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. His final assignment was as director of operations, U.S. Special Operations Command at McDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL. He also ran the Silver Wings and Arnold Air Society for 10 years. It is a professional, honorary, service group of about 4,000 Air Force ROTC cadets.

As retired Marine Gen. George B. Crist said, he had a split life, between the military and the community. “He did a good job of balancing it.”

But the Rev. James W. Law, St. Helena’s Episcopal Church priest associate, may have said it best in his sermon: “As a golfer, he was so-so…he loved God…he had a big heart…and he was a work of art.” The well-being of others was foremost — even when his cancer go the best of him. Those are the reasons he earned the respect of people in large and small stations of life.