ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – On December 3 in 1943, 20-year-old Dennis Bruno and his crew received orders to fly a bombing mission over occupied Germany. According to Bruno’s first-hand account, an unseen German fighter plane took out the starboard wing. With little recourse, these Royal Canadian Airmen received a new order: Abandon ship.

“He subsequently evaded capture for about a day and a half,” said Friend and Vietnam veteran Chief Master Sergeant Paul G. Washinsky.

Dennis Bruno (3rd from the right) and his RCAF crew

As Bruno put it, his high school understanding of french was not enough to fool the German patrol.

“He was then captured and transported by boxcar to Stalag IV-B and was a prisoner of war for 17 months during the second world war,” Washinsky explained.

Of the six-man crew, only two survived the fall. The road ahead began to look quite bleak for young Bruno. Washinsky said the camp he was taken to was not known for hospitality.

“He said they weren’t treated harshly but the conditions were very rough,” Washinsky recalled.

For a year and five months, Bruno held out hope. Washinsky said Bruno pushed to survive by his faith alone. 80 years later, his conditions are anything but rough.

“It’s time that we give a little back to him because he gave so much to us… He’s deserving of everything we’re gonna give him tonight,” Washinsky expressed.

Bruno at 100th birthday with family (2023)

Bruno was surrounded by friends, family and state and military officials, all eager to celebrate the former POW’s 100th birthday at the Wesley Court Senior Home.

Attendees brought honors from the offices of the Texas Land Commissioner, U.S. Representative Jodey Arrington, and for his time in the Royal Canadian Air force, representatives of the Canadian Consulate in Dallas.

“It was really an honor and a privilege to see him in person… It was very emotional because all the liberties and freedoms that we enjoy; these are all sacrifices made by our veterans,” Ontario Agent General Jag Badwal expressed.

The representatives further stated that Bruno’s service to Canada, as well as the United States, truly embodies the country’s international relations.

“Number one allies, trade partners. We talk about people-to-people linkages. And I think Mr. Bruno is a perfect example,” said Noella Demaina, Consul and Foreign Policy Manager at the Consulate General of Canada in Dallas.

Washinsky (left) and wife pose with Bruno (center)

Many members of Bruno’s family were also in attendance. While many call him a hero, this title falls deaf on his ears. Bruno assigns all honor to those he is indebted to for their sacrifice.

“In an interview years ago, an interviewer asked if he thought he was a hero. He looked the interviewer in their eye and he says, ‘The real heroes are the ones that didn’t come back,'” Washinsky recalled.

To those that relish the opportunity just to meet him, a better hero would be difficult to find.

“If it wasn’t for men like Dennis Bruno, then you and I might be speaking Japanese or German right now… I’ll sum it up as Tom Brokaw said, ‘He is one of the greatest generation,'” said Washinsky.