A Very Special Birthday

N Our Voice by Lee Sanks

Scott Bruhn

Of the millions who served in World War II, I understand I'm one of a little over 100,000 Americans who are still alive.

I'm proud to have served my country, but my wartime experience isn't something I talk about frequently.

Truth be told, at 100 years old, the reason I'm still here and survived my time in WW2 comes down to one word.


That's what it came down to between who survived and who didn't in that war.

Simple as that.

Because of my military service, I recently had the privilege of accepting a tremendous opportunity when the University of Nebraska chose to honor me at the football game at Memorial Stadium against Louisiana Tech.

You don't serve your country for the awards or recognition, but to know the sacrifices I made and the difficult times I went through are appreciated means more to me than I'll ever be able to describe.

And to be honored by a state, university, and team that I've come to fully embrace in Nebraska leaves me overwhelmed with emotion and grateful for what turned out to be one of the best days of my life.

Oh, and best of it all, the game fell on my birthday.

100 years old.

The same year Memorial Stadium celebrates its 100th anniversary.

It was just so special.

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My time in the Army

Born and raised in Kansas City, I enlisted in the Army in 1942. I started out at an infantry replacement unit in California, but shortly thereafter, they sent me to the University of San Francisco to be an engineer.

I never really had a choice of what I studied, but I am indebted for the experience.

Had I not been sent to San Francisco, they likely would've sent me to the South Pacific like they did with most of my friends, whom I sadly never heard from again.

As I mentioned before, nothing but dumb luck.

After engineering school, I was reassigned to the 71st division. My division eventually became the U.S. Third Army, which served under general George S. Patton.

After the Battle of the Bulge victory, General Patton wanted more troops, so they sent us off to Europe which came with stops in Germany and Austria.

I'd love to sit here and say that we were thinking about the Constitution and waving the United States flag all over Europe, but that simply wasn't the case.

It was all about not letting down the guy who was standing beside you.

That mindset, with a little bit of luck on my side, is what kept me alive.

Lee and wife

An influential marriage

Sometimes, I have to chuckle at my steadfast allegiance to Nebraska because that wasn't always the case.

As a Missouri native, I returned home after the war and earned a degree in business administration from the University of Missouri.

I loved the Tigers with all my heart.

I even had a black and gold tie.

But that all changed after I met my wife, Delphine, who was born and raised in Lexington, NE, and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Needless to say, she converted me pretty quickly after we were married, and I didn't need too much convincing.

She had tickets for us to go to a football game in Lincoln, and I suppose you could say it was love at first sight.

I'd never experienced anything like it before.

Seeing the thousands of fans packing Memorial Stadium in the "Sea of Red" was really a sight to behold.

From that point on, I've always identified as a Husker.

Watching all the talented players that have come through the program in the years has only increased my fandom.

Mike Rozier, Johnny Rodgers, Tommy Frazier, Eric Crouch – the list goes on and on.

Thanks to Delphine, she's made us all Huskers, as all my kids have degrees from Nebraska and enjoyed spectacular experiences at this university.

She was always a smart cookie, and she proved that once again by convincing me to put away my black and gold tie and cheer for the Huskers, who continue to be nothing short of a blessing to me and my family.

A breathtaking experience

When I first learned about being honored for the Husker game, I believed the word I used was 'begrudgingly.'

As I alluded to earlier, the recognition and awards are humbling, but that's not why I served my country.

But that day in Memorial Stadium took my breath away.

It was overwhelming to witness how much support and appreciation I received. There were so many people who came up to me to shake my hand, thank me for my service, and congratulate me on this honor.

It made it even more special to have my entire family with me. I thought about my wife and all the memorable moments we shared together in that stadium cheering on the Huskers, and the whole experience just touched my heart.

I have to thank the University of Nebraska for giving me one of the great pleasures of my life in that September afternoon game at Memorial Stadium.

At age 100, Nebraska reminded me of a powerful lesson that you're never too old to enjoy and cherish life's most extraordinary moments.