FAIRFIELD – Brian L. Buker was one of four brothers from Benton to go to war in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, and the only one of them not to come home.

Buker, a 1967 graduate of Lawrence High School, was 20 years old in April 1970 when he was killed by enemy fire in Chau Doc Province while saving the lives of many of his men.

For that, Buker was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for gallantry. The certificate given to the family was signed by President Richard M. Nixon.

Buker’s mother, Opal Buker Clark, always said that after she died she wanted the medal donated to the high school for permanent display.

Clark died in May, and last week, members of her family gathered at the high school to fulfill her wish. The Medal of Honor, along with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and other medals and citations, will be presented to school officials during a meeting of the School Administrative District 49 board at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 in the Williamson Center.

“It’s going to be displayed with honor in the library. This is the highest honor that you can receive; it’s certainly an honor for us,” Principal Pamela Swett said as family members gathered in her office to plan the ceremony.


Harry Fitzpatrick of Benton is a former classmate who is helping to organize the ceremony in Buker’s honor.

“He was a regular 1967 version of a teenager,” Fitzpatrick said. “He was more inclined to go off to war; he did talk about joining the Army and serving the nation that way. His focus seemed to be serving in the military.”

Buker, a sergeant with the U.S. Army Special Forces, was serving as a platoon adviser to a Vietnamese mobile strike force company when the platoon came under heavy fire, according to his citation.

“Sgt. Buker personally led the platoon, cleared a strategically located well-guarded pass, and established the first foothold at the top of what had been an impenetrable mountain fortress,” the document reads. “When the platoon came under the intense fire from a determined enemy, located in two heavily fortified bunkers, and realizing that withdrawal would result in heavy casualties, Sgt. Buker unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, charged through the hail of enemy fire and destroyed the first bunker with hand grenades.”

While reorganizing his men for an attack on the second bunker, Buker was seriously wounded, but crawled forward and destroyed the second bunker .

“Sgt. Buker refused medical attention and was reorganizing his men to continue the attack when he was mortally wounded,” the citation reads. “As a direct result of his heroic actions, many casualties were averted, and the assault of the enemy position was successful.”


Buker was one of three U.S. servicemen from Maine to be awarded the Medal of Honor for duty in Vietnam. The other two were Thomas J. McMahon, who is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Lewiston, and Donald Sidney Skidget, who is buried in Sawyer Cemetery in Plymouth.

Buker is buried in Brown Cemetery in Benton.

On hand for the meeting to organize the Medal of Honor ceremony were two of Buker’s three brothers: Victor, 67, of Albion, the oldest of the four boys, and Alan, 64, of South Carolina. The fourth brother, Gerald, 65, lives in Florida and will attend the Sept. 15 ceremony.

All four brothers served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1970.

Victor Buker said the family agreed that his brother’s medals should be given to the high school so future generations would know who Brian Buker was and what he did for his country, lest they forget.

“It will show to the other children just what he was and what they could be, but hopefully not to get the Medal of Honor in this way,” he said. “He graduated here and our mother thought it would be good for the school, and this is the reason it’s being dedicated.”


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