Cecil Brunson was born in 1947 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program on June 5, 1970, and went on active duty beginning July 24, 1970. Lt Brunson next completed Undergraduate Navigator Training and was awarded his navigator wings at Mather AFB, California, in May 1971, followed by Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) and F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training from May 1971 to February 1972. His next assignment was as an F-4E WSO with the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from February 1972 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on October 12, 1972. After spending 169 days in captivity, Lt Brunson was released during Operation Homecoming on March 29, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Travis AFB, California, and then completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Williams AFB, Arizona, in May 1974. Capt Brunson next served as an F-4 pilot with the 334th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina, from May 1974 until he left active duty and joined the Tennessee Air National Guard on April 11, 1980. He then served as a C-130 Hercules pilot with the 164th Tactical Airlift Group of the Tennessee Air National Guard at Memphis, Tennessee, from April 1980 until his retirement from the National Guard on September 7, 1995.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as Pilot of an F-4E Phantom Aircraft in Southeast Asia on 6 October 1972. On that date, Lieutenant Brunson directed his aircraft in an engagement with two hostile aircraft to prevent them from attacking friendly aircraft. Lieutenant Brunson directed the Aircraft Commander to execute a vertical dive and monitored the hostile aircraft's positions while a low pullout was being executed, which resulted in one hostile aircraft impacting the ground and caused the other aircraft to break off the attack, allowing the vulnerable F-105 aircraft to egress to safety. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Lieutenant Brunson has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.