Highest Honor for a Distinguished Veteran

Harry "Bruce" Sutton

Harry “Bruce” Sutton to be inducted into Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame

Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame

To serve this country in the armed forces is, in and of itself, an act of unselfishness worthy of admiration. Anyone who willingly makes that sacrifice should be applauded. Among those honorable citizens are a select few who have distinguished themselves from the rest through unimaginable acts of bravery. One of those individuals happens to be Brownsburg’s own Harry “Bruce” Sutton. Each year, the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame (IMVHOF) holds an event to “publicly emphasize the honor brought to our state and nation by the sacrifice of Indiana military Veterans and their families.” On November 10, Sutton will be inducted into this special group for his acts of courage during the Vietnam War.

A Journey of Two Brothers

Sutton’s military journey began shortly after graduating from Vincennes University with a degree in applied sciences. He started working with Lake Central Airlines (now US Airlines) before he decided to enlist in the military.

“After finishing college I knew that they were probably going to draft me. I was told that if you go in and sign up, you can pick what you want, if they draft you, they just assign you what they want. So I signed up for the officer flight program where I was trained to fly helicopters,” Sutton recalled.

Once he finished the training, he was sent off to Vietnam to join combat as a pilot. He didn’t go alone though. In one of the rare cases, his brother, John Sutton, was able to go out with him. Not only were they stationed together in Vietnam, they actually were able to fly together as well. Bruce ended up extending and staying in Vietnam for 18 months while John left after 9 months.

“It’s very unusual for two brothers to fly together in Vietnam. I think we were the only ones that had that. He was a crew chief and I was a pilot, and we flew together for about nine months. We did everything together for quite a while, and it was hard to see him go,” Bruce Sutton shared.

Medals of Honor

Both Bruce and John made quite an impact during their time of service. In fact, they were both nominated to be inducted into the IMVHOF this year, but Bruce was chosen over John this time. John hopes to join his brother next year, if possible. John received the Soldier’s Medal for saving a pilot and a co-pilot who had crashed in a helicopter by pulling them out of the cockpit, which was on fire. The Soldier’s Medal is given for saving someone’s life outside of combat, which was the case in this situation.

Among a few other medals, Bruce was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing wounded soldiers while under fire. Bruce describes this experience knowing that he is lucky to have gotten out alive. 

“We were circling an area in the jungle where they were taking fire, and they had called for medevac, but there was no medevac around. I decided to go in and get them. I had to circle around, come in low and be evasive. So I came in fast and landed, and they were down around some bushes. They laid three people on the floor in the back and we took off the other way. They said they saw a lot of tracers going at me but none of them hit me. Common sense said you shouldn’t go in there, but happily, it worked ok,” Bruce said.

Returning Home

Eighteen months after being deployed, Bruce returned home and spent a short stint with the Army before receiving a somewhat comical notice.

“After Vietnam, I spent about a year at Ft. Eustis, a transportation center of the US Army, before being released. Vietnam was starting to wind down and I received a letter stating i was ‘released at the convenience of the Army,’ or basically, you’re fired,” Bruce joked.

Upon returning to civilian life, Bruce continued his passion for flying and went back to work for Lake Central, which had then been bought out by US Air. Soon after, he took a job with Allison, which was owned by Rolls Royce, and worked as a test pilot and a tech. He continued to work there for 43 years before retiring. While working at Allison, he also continued to serve for 7 years as part of the Indiana National Guard, where he would fly on weekends for them as well.

Today, Bruce lives in Brownsburg with his wife Becky, with his brother John and a few other family members who are also in the area. He keeps in touch with other Vietnam Veterans with an annual trip to Florida, where they are able to connect and share stories together. He has always maintained a good sense of humor and found that it helped him even in the tough times of war. Bruce is a distinguished Veteran indeed.

The 2023 Induction Ceremony will be held on Friday, November 10th at the Garrison located at 6002 North Post Road, Indianapolis, IN. The social hour begins at 5:00PM, dinner at 6:00PM followed by the ceremony at 7:00 PM. IMVHOF info and tickets can be found at https://imvhof.com

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