Vietnam Veteran Thomas Brickman

Posted by Pat Kinney on Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Grout Museum District has lost a great friend and volunteer a few days ago with the passing of Vietnam veteran Thomas Brickman of Janesville.

Tom and his daughter Shari Kirkpatrick secured photos of all 869 Iowans who were killed in the Vietnam War for the "Faces To Go With Names" kiosk in the permanent Vietnam exhibit in the Grout's Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. He also sent them to the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and they can be looked up and seen online at virtualwall.org.  as well as on the Facebook page Faces To Go With Names: Iowa's Fallen Vietnam Soldiers.

Tom and Shari received statewide recognition and accolades for that accomplishment.

Tom was motivated to do it after he visited the traveling "Wall That Heals," a mobile replica of "The Wall" in Washington. He was deeply moved and inspired to gather the photos. He always said getting a photo of a fallen service member really personalized and drove home the signifcance of that service member's life and the impact of their service and loss. He also helped the Grout gather some photos for Iowans killed in the Korean War for the "Faces of the Fallen" kiosk at the museum, still a work in progress.

Tom also prepared and served chili for several Sullivan Brothers Veterans Memorial 5K/10K runs and other events here at the museum -- including the 2022 run, even after had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.

I remember during my first year at the museum, Tom had stopped to drop off photos and then went out to talk to a group of kids on a tour. He was like a a rock star to them. It was great. I've compared it to the scene with Buzz Lightyear in the arcade claw machine in the original "Toy Story." You could hear the "oohs" and 'aahs" from the kids. That's the way every veteran should be received and Tom was very deserving.

Tom served with the U.S. Army's 196th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam and was a longtime custodian at the Janesville Schools. He also was for several years a devoted caregiver to his wife and life companion of 57 years, Char. I was at their house one day when Tom was playing official "taste tester" to Char's potato salad. They were a sweet couple together.

Those of us who worked with him will miss Tom's positive attitude and uplifting spirit - no matter what. He'd boost your spirits no matter what mood you were in, in spite of yourself.

Like so many 'Nam vets, he "drove on," and everyone who knew him was the richer for it.

Deepest condolences and respect to Tom's family and to all who held him dear.

About The Author

Pat is the Oral Historian for the Grout Museum District.