Faith, family, and service to others united the Brett brothers

Julia LeDoux
April 24, 2019 - 12:54 pm

Robert and Francis Brett were bonded not only by blood but by a sense of service that led them to become Roman Catholic priests and later decorated military chaplains who served heroically in Vietnam.

On Wednesday, the brothers were united in death as Father Frank’s remains were placed alongside Father Robert’s in a grave on Chaplain’s Hill at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Bretts grew up in a staunchly Roman Catholic family and both showed an early interest in the priesthood, according to Frank studied at St. Bernard College in Cullman, Ala., and was ordained in 1959 while Robert attended St. Mary’s Manor in Penndel, Pa., and was ordained in 1963.

Father Robert decided to become a military chaplain in 1967 near the height of the Vietnam War. He joined the Navy and was assigned to the 26th Marine Corps regiment at Phu Bai. On Feb. 28, 1968, he was with a group of Marines who were in a trench waiting on a helicopter to transport them back to battalion headquarters. Father Robert opted to give up his seat on the helicopter at the last second. Within minutes of making that decision, a 122-millimeter rocket struck the trench, instantly killing him and seven others.

Casket of Father Frank Brett
U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released

Father Robert was 32 when he died. He posthumously received the Purple Heart and the Legion of Merit. He was originally buried in a cemetery in Bucks County, Pa., at his mother's request. After her passing, however, the family decided Father Robert would be reinterred on Chaplain’s Hill in Arlington National Cemetery in 1998.

Within months of his brother’s death, Father Frank joined the Army, became a chaplain and volunteered to go to Vietnam. He received a Bronze Star with V-device in 1970 and retired in 1998 after a 30-year career.

Soon after Father Robert’s re-burial, Father Frank decided he wanted to be buried with his brother, whose final resting place included enough space for two. Father Frank died of soft-tissue sarcoma in December of 2017 at the age of 86. The brother’s nephew, Edward Rouse, filed the paperwork that allowed for the two to be buried together.

Gravesite of Father Robert Brett
U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released

Retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Larry McCartney met Father Robert in Vietnam.

“Both deserve burial in their own right because of what they did with their lives,” explains Retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Larry McCartney who met Father Robert in Vietnam. “But putting them in the same plot speaks volumes.”

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