Veteran brothers reunited before Greater Peoria Honor Flight

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 9:48 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Two brothers, who served in different wars, saw each other for the first time in more than two years before setting off Tuesday on the first Greater Peoria Honor Flight of the year.

Jules Breyne, 99, was drafted into World War II in 1943. He was 18 years old at the time. His drafting was deferred to finish high school, but he was at basic training soon after graduation. He served as a radio operator overseas, landing in France days after D-Day.

“We went in and the water was up to my waist,” Breyne said. “The duffel bag I carried on my head.”

Jules Breyne working as a radio operator in the 1940's.
Jules Breyne working as a radio operator in the 1940's.(WEEK)

His brother Don Breyne, 95, was drafted into the Korean War in 1950. He was close to a combat zone but missed fighting on the front lines. He was given another assignment soon after arriving by one of his sergeants.

“Some sergeant came in and said ‘Does anybody know how to type?’ and I said ‘I do,’ and he says ‘Come with me,’ Don said.

He took reports of casualties and levels of ammunition for his unit. He went out on the battlefield after fights to assess the damage. He saw soldiers attacked by napalm, rockets, and mines.

“The first night I was up there we got shelled, I was laying on the side of a hill and I looked over and there was a colonel laying about ten feet from me and he was holding the ground as much as I was,” Don said.

“The only time that I ever came close to getting hurt I was working on a map board and I’m almost positive a ricochet came through and hit the map board I was working on,” he continued.

Don Breyne during his service in Korea
Don Breyne during his service in Korea(Courtesy: Breyne Family)

The brothers have always been close. Jules called Don ‘tag-along,’ because the younger brother would follow him around, but Don said Jules was always the one following.

The brothers are casino fans, spending their day before the Honor Flight at Par-a-dice Casino in East Peoria.

After decades of civilian life, the army memories seem distant. After he returned from Korea, Don was promoted to supply sergeant, technically outranking his brother. He later moved to Georgia, and Jules resides in Aurora.

They hadn’t seen each other in two and a half years.

“I teared up,” Jules said when he reunited with his brother. “I couldn’t help it because to see him and to hold him.”

Some of Don’s sons will accompany them on the trip, they all played a part in the planning.

They wanted to get their father and uncle together for one more trip. They considered the honor flight and felt the Greater Peoria one would be the right size for them.

Don’s eldest son Craig Breyne credited the Greater Peoria Honor Flight with how helpful and welcoming they were.

“They acted like they were doing us a favor,” Craig said. “They have no idea what they’re providing to the family.”

The family is excited about the trip. The brothers will see several of the war memorials in Washington D.C., some for the first time. Don has never seen the Korean War memorial.

“It’s a special time and it’s going to be a special hurrah for us,” Craig said. “Maybe our last hurrah but we’re going to do this one good.”

Jules is not the only World War II veteran on the flight. He’ll be joined by Al Purvis of Darien and Dean Kendall of Washington. Purvis will turn 100 in July.