Brothers who served in World War II remember a life of want and plenty

Charlie, left, and Joe Brafford, right, hold younger photos of themselves while standing outside Charlie’s home in Green Township on Tuesday, January 5, 2020. The brothers grew up in Cincinnati and served overseas in World War II. When they returned, they ran an auto shop together for years. Charlie is 95 years old, and Joe is 96 years old. They are the last remaining siblings from a family of nine.

More than 16 million Americans served in World War II. Now, hundreds die every day. Last year, only about 300,000 veterans were still alive. This is the story of two of them.


Charlie Brafford places his 7UP and whiskey on the table. It clinks, because there is nothing left but ice. The 95-year-old stands up, knees looking like they might buckle, and walks to the mantel in his home on Cincinnati’s West Side, where there are dozens of framed pictures. 

One is from his 90th birthday, where seemingly hundreds gathered to celebrate. Others are from when he was a young man, fixing cars and building whiskey barrels. Charlie looks at another picture, each one full of memories from a time that no longer exists. 

“All my friends are dead,” he says. 

He says this in a nonchalant way, because death is not new for him. It’s something that’s been happening around him for most of his life.

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