WARSAW — Charles “Chuck” Brower was honored as Veteran of the Month at the Kosciusko Commissioners meeting held Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Brower was born in 1926 to Victor and Lela Brower of Dowagiac, Mich. The family moved to Indiana and lived in the Pierceton and North Webster area.
Brower is the fifth son out of a family of six boys and one girl. His four younger brothers also served in the military.
“I signed up for the military when I was a senior in high school,” Brower said. “They said then I wasn’t old enough yet, but as soon as I became old enough they called me and I enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force.”
This was approximately two months after he graduated from high school.
During World War II, Brower attended boot camp at Fort Bragg, N.C. He initially hoped to be a pilot; however, he was informed that all the pilot positions had been filled.
Brower was asked to choose between being a mechanic or a gunner — he chose gunner.
He went to gunnery school in Denver, Colo., where a portion of his training involved riding in the back of a truck and shooting at clay targets with a machine gun.
Brower received the highest score in the competition against all other gunners at Gunnery school. This training prepared him for his first duty assignment as gunner bombardier on a B17 aircraft.
He received his first duty assignment to England; however, the day before his crew was scheduled to leave, Germany surrendered, and their flight was canceled.
Brower was then reassigned to B29 Gunnery School, which kept him in the Denver, Colo., area. The B29 Fortress was a bigger version of the B17.
Brower’s next assignment canceled as well — due to Japan’s surrender.
He was then on military leave for a while, during which time he hitchhiked from Denver to California to visit his brother, Eldon, who was stationed there with the Merchant Marines.
Back in those days when you hitchhiked, people would always stop for a man in uniform and give them a lift or buy them a meal, Brower recalled, noting that one time Brian Donlevy, an actor known for playing “tough guy” roles, bought him a beer.
“He just happened to be at the same bar I was at,” Brower said.
He went to Florida to begin what would be his final assignment. He was stationed with an Air Sea Rescue Unit that flew over the ocean in search of people or boats in distress.
When his service ended, he was honorably discharged and headed back home to Indiana.
Before he made it home, Brower said he was offered a ride by a man who called himself “Colonel Sanders.” According to Brower, the man took him back to his home for supper, although Brower could not recall if they had chicken for supper.
After his time in the military, he enrolled at Tri State University through the GI bill and received his civil engineering degree.
In 1961 he ran for — and won — the position of Kosciusko County surveyor. He held the position for 28 years until his retirement in 1989.
He earned his surveyor’s license during his first term and went on to mentor Richard Kemper and Mike Kissinger, who both went on to hold the position of county surveyor.
Brower holds the longest consecutive term of any surveyor in Kosciusko County history.
Brower is the father of two children. His daughter, Sue Gladieux, North Webster, has also worked in the surveyor’s office for 45 years and trumps her father in length of service.
His son, Mike Brower, Lexington, Ky., is retired from his vocation in public television.
Those in attendance were invited to stop by the surveyor’s office for refreshments.