Gorham Police Sgt. David Bruni salutes after laying a wreath on the gravestone of Lt. Col. Herbert Brentlinger in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Contributed / Sgt. David Bruni

A Gorham police officer who was part of Wreaths Across America last month at Arlington National Cemetery placed a wreath that was especially meaningful locally.

Sgt. David Bruni visited the grave of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Herbert Brentlinger, grandfather of Gorham Deputy Town Clerk Paula Nystrom. Paying homage, Bruni placed a wreath on Brentlinger’s gravestone, saluted, and spoke his name aloud so he wasn’t forgotten.

Scott Nystrom, Paula’s husband and Gorham’s animal control officer, knew Bruni would be an escort to the convoy of big rigs hauling thousands of wreaths from Maine to Arlington for Wreaths Across America. He provided Bruni with cemetery coordinates to locate the grave. Even with the information, it took Bruni 90 minutes to find it amid thousands of uniform white stones standing in rows.

Contributed / Sgt. David Bruni

Brentlinger, born in 1898, served during World Wars I and II. Nystrom said little is known about Brentlinger’s service. He said his wife believes her grandfather lived in the Arlington, Virginia, area.

Brentlinger died in 1964.

Veterans eligible for burial in Arlington include those who died in active duty, retired active duty, prisoners of war, and recipients of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star and Purple Heart.


It’s unclear how Brentlinger met the requirements for burial in Arlington.

Bruni was an Army paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division from 1983 to 1986. His father fought in the Pacific with the Army Air Corps in World War II.

He describes his entire experience last month laying wreaths on graves of war dead at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia as “gut wrenching.” It was hard to hold back tears, he said.

“It was such an honor for me. I was beside myself,” he said.

He and Officer Michael Chaine of Bridgton Police were selected to place a wreath at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Bruni also located the grave of World War II hero Audie Murphy.

Gorham Police Chief Christopher Sanborn said his department receives “very positive feedback” from the community and the officers taking part in the Wreaths Across America event.


“Officers who participate come back and inform us that it is an incredible experience that they truly appreciate being able to participate in,” Sanborn said.

Gorham officers have escorted the Wreaths Across America convoy to Arlington for several years.

“They feel that it is a true honor to represent the Gorham Police Department and the community as a whole in this incredible event honoring those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Sanborn said.

Bruni said he wants to make a similar trip with his family.

“It was such a learning experience,” he said. “I love history.”

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