The Defense Department has approved adding Air Force Capt. Edward Alan Brudno's name to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, ruling that his 1973 suicide was a direct result of wounds suffered as a prisoner of war.
The Air Force's recommendation to add the name to the memorial sparked debate last month after the president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Jan C. Scruggs, contended that the addition could lead to thousands of other suicide victims' names being engraved on the wall.
The Pentagon, which officially endorsed the Air Force's recommendation Thursday, emphasized that Brudno's case is unique and should not result in the names of more Vietnam veterans who commit suicide being put on the memorial. The agency said Brudno's case met the longstanding guidelines for inclusion on the wall, which limit eligibility to military service members who were killed in Vietnam or who suffered injuries there that later proved fatal.
Brudno's wounds were related to severe physical abuse, psychological abuse and torture in several prisoner of war camps in North Vietnam, according to a spokesman for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The addition of Brudno's name "must not be misunderstood to include, broadly, cases involving more attenuated circumstances that may have led to postwar suicides, or those postwar deaths more distantly based on cases of war-related psychological trauma," spokesman James Turner wrote in an e-mail yesterday.
Representatives of Brudno's family, who had lobbied for the addition of his name, said they were relieved by the agency's decision.
"This was psychological torture at the hands of the enemy in a combat zone," said his brother, Robert Brudno of Bethesda. "There are not thousands of others who meet that criteria."
Scruggs, who earlier said he planned to pursue congressional hearings if the name was approved, said yesterday that he accepts the decision and believes that it was the correct one. Earlier, he argued that the place for Brudno to be recognized would be on a plaque soon to be added to the memorial, which will honor premature deaths resulting from Agent Orange exposure and suicides.
But yesterday, Scruggs said he now agrees with the Defense Department that Brudno's name belongs on the wall. "They [the Defense Department] feel they have distinguished this to the point it would be the only postwar suicide to end up on the wall," Scruggs said. "On balance, I think they did the right thing."
Brudno spent 71/2 years in various prisoner of war camps after his F-4 was shot down over North Vietnam in the fall of 1965. Four months after he returned home in 1973 -- one day before his 33rd birthday -- he killed himself in the home of his wife's family in Harrison, N.Y. He was the first of about 600 POWs released during Operation Homecoming in early 1973 to die.
Some former POWs who had lobbied for the addition of Brudno's name said that his death had served as a warning call for the military that led to better psychological care for troops returning from combat.
"I am comforted by knowing that my brother's sacrifice has added to the understanding of the psychological wounds of warfare," Robert Brudno said. "Perhaps others were saved by the alarm my brother's death raised."
Brudno's name will be one of seven names added to the memorial this spring, Scruggs said. A ceremony honoring the additions will be held on Memorial Day.
died in 1973.Capt. Edward Alan Brudno endured 71/2 years in prisoner of war camps in North Vietnam. Four months after he returned home, he killed himself.