Hometown Hero's letters rich with memories and history

By Amanda Porterfield | aporterfield@wcia.com

Published 11/01 2013 06:10PM

Updated 12/12 2014 11:10AM

CHAMPAIGN -- These days the internet is full of bloggers. Some talk about fashion, others politics. The subjects are endless, but one man is blogging in a way not many have seen before. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield shows us how he's telling the world about our Hometown Hero.

Way back when the internet was called the World Wide Web, John Bruns started thinking of the future by simply saving the past.

"It's more than a hobby. It's actually become a passion."

Neatly tucked away in his basement office is every letter his dad wrote home during World War II and his diary.

"I grew up with his souvenirs playing army. I read books on World War II and listened to his stories all of my life. And probably know a lot of them as well as he does now."

In an effort to hold onto those stories forever, he posts every letter online.

"I guess that I am doing a tribute to my father. All he's done for me in my lifetime, I am, on some level, trying to pay him back."

John spends countless hours each week transcribing 70-year old pieces of paper line-by-line matching them with pictures and events which happened around the same time. It's a labor of love which doesn't go unnoticed.

"I appreciate everything he's doing. You can't ask for any more than that."

Every day, Chick Bruns, who has a bad sciatic nerve, pushes his pain aside and makes his way to the computer.

"I can't wait to get home, to turn it on to see what happens. To see whether I am still alive or not."

"But, you know what happens."

"No, I don't. I can't remember. Hell, that's a long time ago!"

These posts help him remember the guy who joined the Army because he felt it was the right thing to do. His unit ended up at Hitler's home. When he wasn't fighting, he was writing.

"I didn't want my folks to worry. We were behind the lines, so the diary I had, it just went with me. That was all. We weren't supposed to write. It was against Army rules to have a diary in case you got captured, they would get the information off of you. Really, what I was doing was putting what we were doing each day. I scribbled a few lines each day."

And by scribbled, he means just that. Some days, there's a lot of action, others, not so much. But, more than 7,000 people have logged on just to read about Chick.

"It's exciting, let's put it that way, to think that somebody is reading something that happened to me 70-years ago."

Contrary to most bloggers these days, what keeps John clicking back and forth through time aren't the page views, but the simple fact time is ticking.

"I know he won't be here forever. He's 94 now and still gets around real well. I don't get to see him as often as I would like and this is my way to provide a tribute to him. It's my dad. I love him a bunch."

Today, is November 1, 1943. Chick is in Italy ducking bombs from above. He still has about two more years until the war is over. A day that for him, 70-years ago, couldn't come soon enough, but this time, will come too soon for his son.

"When the letters are all done, then what?"

"I don't know. I don't know. I don't have an answer for you. I'm really not sure what's going to happen that day."

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