Three-time Purple Heart recipient, Middletown Vietnam veteran dies at 72

MIDDLETOWN — When LaFayette Antonio Bronston shared military stories with fellow veterans, they considered him “the boss,” his wife said.

“Sacrifice and toughness,” said his wife, Dora Bronston. “He’s my hero.”

Bronston, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, died Friday at his Middletown home after a lengthy bout with dementia, his wife said. He was 72.

A staff sergeant in the Marines, he earned three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star during his three Vietnam tours. He was the driving force behind Middletown being declared a Purple Heart City, his wife said.

Bronston was part of the 1st Battalion 9th Marines that during the Vietnam War sustained the highest casualty rate in Marine Corps history. This earned them the nickname “The Walking Dead."

During Vietnam, Bronston participated in dangerous rescue missions, his wife said.

But he never considered himself a hero. He reserved that label to those who lost their lives in battle, she said.

After the war, Bronston served on the Dayton Fire Department from 1978-94 until he took medical retirement after a work-related back injury. Bronston told his wife he went from “taking lives to saving lives” when he shifted from the Marines to the fire department.

The Springfield native was a lifetime member of VFW and American Legion in Middletown. He also served on the Honor Guard and chaplain of the VFW. He was chairman of Veteran Affairs for the local NAACP chapter and taught at the Bible College at Solid Rock Church for two years.

Dora, his wife of 22 years, said LaFayette also had a softer side. He was “a strong family man” who enjoyed doing chores around the house, taking out the trash, washing clothes and cooking dinner. He never allowed his wife to carry in the groceries.

“He was a caretaker,” she said. “He was a good person, always caring and giving."

Besides his wife, he’s survived by his mother Kathryn; children Lahna and Alex and three stepdaughters, Joya, Melinda and Veronica; three sisters Emma, Ruthie and Paula; and two brothers Martin and Owen.

About the Author