Mobile, Ala. (WKRG)– Fran Barber-Bruyn is well known in the veterans’ community–and if you’ve seen her, chances are she would have had a camera in her hands.
“I always have my camera,” she said.
There are very few veterans events held along the Gulf Coast that Fran misses–and the reason is simple and personal.
“All of my uncles and my Dad served either in WWII or Korea. And it’s basically to honor them,” said Fran.
And her involvement in veterans affairs began years ago—when she learned to ride a motorcycle.
She told us, “I joined Rolling Thunder–you don’t have to ride a motorcycle to join but it’s a lot more fun if you do–so I got involved with them.”
As she was taking pictures at an event–she caught the attention of local dentist, Dr. Barry Booth, who was behind one of the biggest veterans events that was about to happen—Honor Flight South Alabama—the effort that eventually took almost a thousand World War Two veterans to Washington to see their memorial.
“And he called me to his office and said ‘how would you like to be the photographer for Honor Flight. Well, I melted,” she said.
Since then she’s been instrumental in other efforts supporting the veteran community–including the restoration of Oaklawn Cemetary. She and veteran husband Neil Bruyn worked tirelessly alongside one-time veteran of the year Bill Atkeison, who sadly passed away last year. They worked to revitalize the cemetery–forming the Veterans Memorial Recovery Team at Historic Oaklawn Cemetary.
“And we’re looking for veterans–so far we’ve found close to a thousand, dating back to World War One,” said Fran.
But Fran also makes sure veterans stay informed. When Bill Atkeison died, she also took over public relations duties for the South Alabama Veterans Council.
Council President Lou Lartigue told us, “Of course when Bill Atkeison left us last year we asked her to be our secretary and produce our newsletter, which she does a fabulous job doing—goes out to more than four hundred veterans and organizations—“
So today, we salute Fran Barber Bruyn with our Serving Those Who Serve award—and on behalf of Gulf Coast veterans, we hope she keeps up the great work.