Camp Lejeune Bridge Renamed In Honor Of Major Brooks
Most of us didn't remember. But it
was five years ago on Friday that an experimental V-22 Osprey went
down during a training exercise in the Arizona desert, killing 19
Marines. Friday, one of those Marines, co-pilot Major Brooks
Gruner, was honored near his home base of Camp Lejeune, North
Carolina. The people of Jacksonville, NC, have renamed a bridge
leading to the base Major Brooks Gruner Bridge.
Some 100 people attended the dedication ceremony Friday --
Gruner's widow, parents and brothers among them.
"There are so many heroes to come out of Camp Lejeune, it is an
honor," said Gruber's father, Bill, quoted by the Naples, FL, Daily
"Thank you all for agreeing that the Osprey pioneers deserve a
tribute such as this," Connie read to the crowd from a prepared
speech. "The Henderson Drive Bridge was Brooks' route to work each
day at the Air Station. He expected to continue this route when he
returned from Arizona."
But the emotional wounds Connie Gruber suffered when her husband
and the other 18 Marines died in the mishap Osprey are far from
healed. As she watched the bridge dedication on Friday, she held
her five-year old daughter, Brooke, close to her side.
"I didn't understand. I still don't really understand. The part
I know now is I don't have to understand. I just keep my faith and
it's going to be okay," she told the Daily News.
The mishap that took Gruber's life was one of two that led to
the grounding of the tilt-rotor aircraft. Just eight months later,
another Osprey went down, taking the lives of four Marines. Connie
Gruber watched in dismay as news of the second mishap broke in the
"In the beginning it was really hard to accept the circumstances
of the accident. How everything happened and how it didn't have to
happen that way," she said.
Brooks' father, Bill, said he doesn't understand why the
aircraft's builders, Boeing and Bell/Textron, didn't do more
testing on their aircraft before sending it to the USMC for
"Instead, they had kids like Brooks testing," he said.
"I feel their sacrifice brought to light the problems with the
aircraft and the management of the program," Connie
said. "I've heard people compare it to the (space)
Bitter? No, Connie isn't. She said, as a result of the accident
that killed her husband, the Pentagon has instituted a new testing
regime for the aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and flies
like a plane. Instead of being timeline-driven, the testing program
is milestone-driven. As a result, she said, the program is much
There are now two signs on the Henderson Drive bridge leading
from Jacksonville, NC, to Camp Lejeune. At either end of the span,
the signs simply say, Major Brooks Gruner Bridge. It's a timeless
memorial to a man whose wife says gave his life in the pursuit of