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Friday, September 22, 2023

Avenue of Heroes: Robert Byron Fuller

Prepeared by: Peggy Fuller (daughter)

Robert Byron Fuller enlisted in the Navy following high school in 1945 and was assigned to the USS WALDRON, a World War II Destroyer. He later received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, graduating in 1951. Byron met Mary Anne McGinley of Jacksonville in the 9th grade and married her in 1952. Upon receiving his Navy “Wings of Gold”, he was assigned to various Fighter and Attack squadrons.

Assigned as Executive Officer, then Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron 76 at NAS Lemoore, he deployed to Vietnam on board USS BON HOMME RICHARD. On his 110th combat mission, Byron was shot down, captured and held as a Prisoner of War for 68 months, from July 1967 to March 1973, 25 of these months in solitary confinement. For “Extraordinary Heroism as a Prisoner of War” he was awarded the Navy Cross, our nation’s second highest honor. His other awards for valor include two Silver Stars, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts and the POW Medal.

Byron returned home to Jacksonville as part of “Operation Homecoming” and was reunited with his family in March 1973. He returned to active service and upon selection for flag rank after a tour in the Pentagon, he commanded Carrier Battle Group 4. He retired from active duty in 1982, after 37 years of service.

Upon retirement he started his second career at Sun State Marine, a Tugboat and Ship Building/ Repair company, where he served as Vice President and eventually retired as President. During this time, he served for many years on the Board of Directors of the Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital, eventually serving as Chairman. Byron also served as a founding board member of the Fleet Landing Retirement Community in Atlantic Beach.

Byron and Mary Anne built and lived in the home he envisioned in Jacksonville Beach. He will be remembered for his love of spending time with his family and friends, sailing his sailboat, the “America II,” and flying his open cockpit biplanes. Every moment with family was treated as a gift and was cherished by all. His family has thrived because of his presence. He was our shining star and role model.

The Avenue of Heroes Program is a military service recognition program sponsored by the City of Coronado. Introduced in 2014, the program has honored 230 hometown heroes to date. On May 20, 2023, another 15 were honored. City staff and volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, the Coronado Historical Association and the Third and Fourth Streets Neighborhood Association oversee its operation. In 2011, the program was inspired spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. News spread quickly throughout the city and the local Rotary Club passed out American flags. People lined Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, a lone Navy SEAL stood at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. At that moment, it was clear that Third and Fourth streets were already an Avenue of Heroes. From that spontaneous beginning, the program was launched in May 2015 with 18 banners. Ceremonies are held twice yearly and men and women with ties to the community have been recognized from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The Avenue of Heroes program is a reminder that Coronado has a rich history and legacy of service to country.

Bella Villarin
Bella Villarin
Bella is a proud military brat who has been a resident of Coronado since 2015. She was born in Japan, and after a short stay in Virginia, traveled extensively throughout Asia while living in Singapore and picking up another language. A junior at Coronado High School, Bella can be found at the driving range or golf course when not in school, studying, writing, playing the guitar, or spending time with her family. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]