Richard Brunhaver was born in 1940 in Wapto, Washington. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on July 31, 1961, and was commissioned through the Naval Aviation Cadet Program on July 30, 1963. After completing pilot training, Brunhaver trained as an A-4 Skyhawk pilot with the Replacement Air Group at NAS Lemoore, California. He then joined Attack Squadron 22 and began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia in April 1965, flying off the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVA-41). On August 24, 1965, Brunhaver was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War. After spending 2,729 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973, during which time he had been promoted from Lieutenant Junior Grade to Lieutenant Commander. After hospitalization, LCDR Brunhaver served with the Navy ROTC detachment at the University of Washington before leaving the service on October 18, 1974.
His 2nd Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. On 10 June 1969, his captors, completely ignoring international agreements, subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly toward the eventual abandonment of harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese, which was attracting international attention. By his determination, courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.