Jeff Braatz’s voice cracked as he talked about the quality of character possessed by his brother. He fought back tears as he addressed a Charlotte High School lecture room full of students, teachers, veterans and guests during a special Veteran’s Day presentation honoring PFC Curtiss Braatz.
“He never let anything stand in his way,” Jeff said. “Even though he was young, he was already a man of honor, duty and integrity. He always valued doing the right things for the right reasons.”
PFC Curtiss Braatz was killed Nov. 21, 1968 in Vietnam while providing protective fire for a convoy that was engaged with a large enemy force. For his actions, PFC Braatz received the Bronze Star with Valor and the Purple Heart, which were presented posthumously to his mother in 1969.
As part of the Tuesday, Nov. 11 presentation, the Braatz family presented Charlotte High School with those medals along with his CHS football pin. It was a ceremony filled with emotion and the valuable lesson that freedom is never free.
“How fitting is this donation to be presented on Veteran’s Day to the high school that Curtiss graduated from in 1967,” said CPS Superintendent Mark Rosekrans, who also struggled to keep from getting emotional. “We’re truly honored and humbled to receive Curtiss’ medals to display them in our media center for our students and our community to continue to see from this day forward. When you look at all of our students, knowing that Curtiss was one of them and he was just a child too, it is important to recognize the sacrifice he made.”
The service of the men and women in our United States Armed Forces was a focal point of the Veteran’s Day presentation, which was put together by CHS teacher John Moran. In addition to the life of Curtiss Braatz, the presentation included a brief history of Veteran’s Day as well as a reading of Old Glory and the significance of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
“One of the things you should leave here today with is the clear understanding that real heroes are people who help other people, sometimes at the risk or expense of their own lives,” said Don Colizzi, United States Marine Corps veteran who shared the significance of the Bronze Star. “All members of our armed forces are heroes. Some are just put into a position where they end up being more heroic than others and for their bravery they are awarded special medals for their heroic acts.”
PFC Braatz was one of those individuals.
“In a sentence PFC Curtiss Braatz, while engaged in a fierce firefight with the enemy, saved the lives of others at the expense of his own life,” Colizzi said. “He was and is a true hero in every sense of the word.”
He was and is a hero to his family and his community as well. In 1969, Charlotte High School started the Curt Braatz Award, which is given annually to the top male and female atheletes who exemplify leadership to their fellow teammates.
“Leadership is not just being vocal, it is also the ability to lead by actions and giving 100 percent each time you step onto the field of competition,” said CHS athletic director Dan Stafford. “The story (Curtiss’) life and selfless acts can inspire all of us to think of others and to give back to our own communities.”
Giving back is part of the reason the Braatz family decided to make the donation.
“Our family is so grateful to know that Curt’s memory will live on for the people, and especially the students here in Charlotte,” Jeff said. “We appreciate the effort of everyone to bring to the attention and honor to all who have sacrificed so much.
“There are those men that do the right thing when people are looking,” Jeff said. “And then there are those men that do the right thing when no one is looking and that was our brother Curt. Our brother would do anything for anybody. And, in the end, he did just that. He did everything for everybody.”