Bonnie Long remembers her big brother, Barry Lynn Brinegar
“We all grew up in Patriot, Bonnie said. “We moved there when I think I was 10 years old. We were there until Barry went to the military and I moved away after living there several years once I got married.”
Now a resident of Madison.
The family was a large one, the children of Lorraine and Doug McNeely. Barry was Lorraine’s oldest child, born on October 2nd, 1951. Early in their childhood, Lorraine took her children and the family lived in Georgia along with their grandfather and other family members prior to moving to Patriot.
“We all lived in a big house down there, so all of the cousins were like brothers and sisters,” Bonnie said.
Returning to Ohio from Georgia, the family then moved to Patriot when Lorraine and Doug — longtime friends — decided to marry.
Barry was 13 months older than Bonnie, and after dropping out of school, Barry enlisted in the Army to serve his country.
Joining the Army in 1970, Barry served until he was killed on February 8th, 1971. He served in C Battery 611 Artillery, Americal Division, U.S. Army.
“He was 19 years old,” Bonnie said. “He was in Chu Lai when he was killed. He was in a truck and it hit and landmine and it exploded. He went in on January 1st, 1970; and in July of 1970 he went to Vietnam and was killed that following February.”
To honor his service and his memory, the Patriot community will have Barry Brinegar’s family as the Grand Marshals of this Saturday’s Patriot 4th of July parade.
Bonnie remembers her brother as more than just a military hero.
“Barry was like most farm boys. We worked on the farm putting in hay and tobacco,” Bonnie said. “He was my big brother and we were best friends. My sister, Beverly, is a couple of years younger than me, so she was able to do a lot of things that Barry and I did as far as climbing trees and that kind of stuff. Our brother, Denny McNeely, he and Barry got into some mischief at the age that they were. Barry was a good kid. He was very soft hearted. I don’t know that I ever knew him to be mean at all — other than our normal sibling rivalries.
“When I think about Barry Lynn, I think about a lot of good times and a lot of fun. We worked hard on the farm, but we never thought a thing about it, because that was just what we thought we were supposed to do. I don’t ever remember him complaining — because we had a good time when we did it.”
Bonnie said that because the family lived on a farm, Barry was allowed to drive even though he wasn’t old enough. She said that when Doug would be working at Seagrams, the family would head over to the other farm to get chores done.
“That was a big deal, when a kid could drive out on the road with a truck,” she said.
Bonnie said that Barry was already in Vietnam when he found out that Bonnie was going to have a baby. Daughter Trisha Lynn was born in December of 1970.
“I named her after him,” Bonnie said. “We wrote letters back and forth and he knew she was born and was named after him — but he got killed before he was able to see her.”
Bonnie said that although younger members of the family never had the chance to meet Barry, that they all know him because his brothers and sisters and other family members have shared stories about him.
“This has brought back a lot of memories,” Bonnie said of the honor of this Saturday’s parade. “It’s kind of brought him back, you know what I mean? We’re talking 50 years ago, and your life move on, but the memories of him remain with all of us. Denny loved Barry to death — he was his idol. He hung on Barry Lynn’s heel whenever he could. They were inseparable.”
Bonnie said that siblings Dougie and Linda were born after the family was in Patriot.
“They remember him a little, but they were so young,” Bonnie said. “Our sister Karen was older than Barry, so they grew up together too. Joyce was a little older than Denny; so there are lots of good memories.”
As the family prepares for this Saturday’s parade and celebration, Bonnie said that her mom, Lorraine, who still lives in Patriot, is making plans to attend.
“We’re going to try and have mom there, she has her good days and she has her bad,” Bonnie said. “When I told her, she started to cry. She was really pleased and she is all about being in the parade.”
Bonnie said that the family found out about the honor a few weeks ago, when Ron Mitchell called her and told her of the honor. Bonnie than called all of her siblings and let them know, as well.
“We’re all having shirts made with Barry’s military picture on it, with his date of birth and the day he died. We thought that would be kind of nice in the parade. One of my uncles who served in the Army, he’ll be at the parade; and one of my aunts —My mom’s sister — she’s coming. We were a really close family.”
And as she and her siblings and family members prepare for a day of honoring the memory and the service of their loved one, Bonnie said that pride mixes with wonderful memories of her brother — bravely giving his life in service to his country.
“I never dreamed he wouldn’t come home,” Bonnie said.
With the 4th of July falling on Sunday this year, the Patriot community opted to move the parade up a day to Saturday, July 3rd.
Those wanting to participate in the parade should be at the Patriot Boat Ramp starting at 8:30 a.m. for registration and line up; with the parade running down Main Street starting at 11 a.m.
Following the parade, everyone will gather at the Patriot Memorial Park, where State Representative Randy Frye, Patriot native Ron Mitchell, and Patriot Baptist Church pastor Mike Jones will speak during the Grand Marshal ceremony honoring Barry Brinegar,
The day will also feature food and drink vendors at the four-way; snacks at the firehouse; and there will be a dunk tank and a water slide at Harris Park for the afternoon.
The day of festivities will conclude on Saturday night with a fireworks display at dark.
Everyone is invited to attend.