Local World War 2 veteran turns 96

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Ira Brashear is not one to go around personally demanding attention.

However, his life story certainly gives way to it.

On Wednesday, July 20th, Brashear will celebrate his 96th birthday.

“I’ve been able to take care of my family and had friends who can take me in,” said Brashear. “I’m not bragging, but I’m proud of it.”

From a young age, Brashear – the third of five children to grow up in a home off Turner Avenue in nearby Irvine – learned how to overcome challenges, as did many individuals from what has been dubbed “The Greatest Generation.”

After suffering a broken leg and losing his mother when he was just six years old, Brashear would at one point take a regular 20-minute walk to his elementary school. When he was 13, during the Great Depression, his father lost his job working for the railroad.

Later, Brashear discovered what military branch he would like to serve in at what today might sound like an unusual place – the local movie theater.

“Back then, the only way you knew what was going on in the world was [to] go to the movie for a quarter, watch a western, and the commercial would tell you and show you what was going on,” said Brashear. “[The army and marines] were crawling in the mud, and I said, ‘Well, that’s not for me … I’d rather be in the Navy.’”

After his dad agreed to sign him up for service at age 17, Brashear underwent training at the Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago and spent two years in the Navy from 1944-1946.

During World War II, his tour of duty included stops at the Panama Canal, Pearl Harbor – near the then recently sank U.S.S. Arizona – and Okinawa. He mainly found himself on since-decommissioned LSTs, or Landing Ship Tanks, which assisted in amphibious assault operations.

On one occasion, while docked in Okinawa, Brashear’s crew narrowly escaped being hit by a Japanese kamikaze plane that appeared to be aiming directly toward it. “We were shooting at the plane … And when it came down, he decided he wasn’t going to hit us”, Brashear said. “He could see the ammunition ship, so he changed his mind.”

Ultimately, the Japanese plane would be unsuccessful, as it hit the water before reaching the second ship.

Following the end of his military time, Brashear attended the University of Kentucky and later became an engineer – working first at the Delco Products General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio, for 11 years, followed by a long career with IBM that saw a stay in Texas. He eventually requested and was granted a transfer back to Winchester, where his mother was originally from.

Following his return, Brashier married his wife, Hildred. They stayed together for 65 years before her passing in 2014 and raised two children – one boy and one girl. Brasher’s children currently live in Texas and have graduated college, an honor that Brashear – who received his high school diploma upon returning from overseas – is particularly proud of them receiving.

“Nobody could be better to me than my children,” he said.

A grandfather and a  great-grandfather, Brashear, offered some sage words when asked what advice he would like to give future generations.

“Learn how to save money. It is very important”, he said. “Money is not everything. You can’t put money before a lot of things, but you need to respect it.”

Also, he made sure to make a few personal mentions.

“I love the Lord,” he said. “I want people to know that.