Pamela Branum – Senior Chief, United States Navy


Hospital Corpsman Senior Chief Pamela A. Branum, USN (FMF) passed away Tuesday, June 2, 2009, while on deployment with the USNS Comfort on humanitarian missions. She had been recently stationed at the Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va., as the Operational Support Officer, Senior Enlisted Leader to the Director of Administrations.


Senior Chief Branum proudly served her country from September 1986 until June 2, 2009. Senior Chief’s service includes Camp Pendleton Hospital; Guam Hospital; Staff Instructor, Chemical and Biological Warfare Team Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; March 2003 deployment to Iraq; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with the Joint Chief of Staff; and Pensacola Naval Hospital.

She touched the lives of countless sailors and marines all over the world with an exceptional ability to deeply inspire others with her seemingly endless abilities and personality. She loved her family and friends dearly and will be greatly missed by all.

She was preceded in death by grandfathers, Thomas E. Branum and Edward Dee Hargis.

She is survived by her parents, Larry Branum and Claudette Wade; sister, Rhonda Keith, and her husband, Lane Keith; brothers, Chris Wade and Todd Branum; nephew, Kirian Keith, stepbrother, David Green; grandmothers, Martha Branum-Flowers and Betty L. Hargis, and many aunts, uncles, cousins.

The family will receive friends for visitation from noon until 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, 2009, at the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 11, 2009, at Oakwood Baptist Church, located on Bonny Oaks, Highway 153, Chattanooga, with Chaplain Cynthia Kane officiating.

Interment will be in Arlington Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation be made in honor of Senior Chief Branum to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, 875 North Randolph St., Ste. 225, Arlington, Virginia 22203.

CDR Edwin Taylor, MC, USN
H1 Division
USNS Comfort (TAH-20)
JUNE 4, 2009The morning before getting underway, I responded to a medical emergency on board ship. That morning, we lost a
shipmate. A wonderful lady, a superb Chief Petty Officer and a well liked and loved member of our team.

Just two days before, I had the pleasure of working with her on shore at my site, she was my assistant site leader. Little did I know I was not going to see her alive again. Life is fickle that way.

Chief Pamela Branum passed away in her sleep, we don't know why. Her tour on earth was over and she was called to be with the Lord. He knows who he wants at his side and I am sure he had a special place for her for she was one special and wonderful human being.

I had only known Chief Branum for 8 weeks and worked with her at all the sites. When she was there, things were covered.

She departed this ship with full honors. Every Chief Petty Officer served as her sideboys as the Chaps led the procession that accompanied her flag draped body to the helo. The aircrew stood in formation, abreast of the flight deck and rendered her honors as she arose. We gonged her ashore as she flew onward on the beating rotors of a helo while the entire crew stood in formation on the pier, saluting her as she passed overhead. The Air Force band played the Navy Hymn and a lone bugler melancholically played taps. A lonely blast of the ships whistle notified the sailors in port that a sister of the seas had moved on to more hallowed grounds. As the bugler finished, the call to order arms was passed…followed by the words, ‘dismissed'. We had been at parade rest and attention for almost an hour, a shortened version of a wake, as we patiently awaited to tell our shipmate goodbye. Yet, almost no one moved. As tears were shed, and shipmates….army, air force, marines, public health, civilians, canadians, dutch, salvadoran, dominican,
nicaraguan, colombian, brazilian and mariners….hugged and comforted one another, the reality of our loss became

That night, we celebrated her life. We toasted a final farewell to our shipmate as she would have expected us to do. It is the sailor way. The following day, as the Gatun locks were cleared and we entered the peaceful waters of Gatun lake, we had a ceremony for Chief Branum. I don't think she could have asked for a more befitting moment. The tropical breezes were blowing, the calm brown waters of the lake parted for our passage and the serene tropical
plants undulated by the shore, urging us along. Our chaplain said it best. Just as we were now passing from one
ocean to the next, so was Chief making her own passage from one place to another.

And in the morning sunlight, with white birds flying about, we raised our voices in prayer and song and bid farewell to another beloved shipmate who now would stand the watch from heaven. We know you're up there, Chief.  For, you see, Chief had confided in the Chaplain a couple of days ago that she had had a dream. She told him she was dreaming that she had come upon a stream whose bottom was covered in silver coins. She put as many as she could in her pockets and then turned, only to see a small church on a hill. She walked up into it, and she said she saw people in there who were looking at her funny. She thought she had done something wrong. When she asked the chaps about this, he told her that dreams are difficult to understand but what he gathered from that was that she had made peace with the Lord and she was righteous in God's eyes. And so, now we know about the meaning of her dream, don't we? Chief, we miss you and we forever will be grateful for having had you touch our lives. God Speed. Fair Winds and Following Seas, Shipmate. We now have the watch.

We awoke Tuesday morning, our last day in Panama, to the tragic news that Chief Petty Officer Pamela Branum, one of the senior enlisted Navy personnel aboard, had passed away the previous night in her sleep. Her sudden death caused an appropriately somber mood to come over the ship. Sailors who had known, worked with, and loved Chief Branum for years comforted one another and shared her memory with those of us not fortunate to have known her well.Those of us who have not had to deal with as much death as our military counterparts also learned a powerful lesson about their fortitude. At the nightly brief that evening, and then again at a memorial ceremony the following day, several of Chief Branum’s close friends spoke about her death. They movingly shared how much Chief Branum meant to them and how much they would feel her loss, and then each concluded with the same thought: that there is no greater way to honor Chief Branum’s memory than to dedicate this mission to her and, in that spirit, to redouble our efforts to help as many people as possible.

June 9, 2009 – PORTSMOUTH, Virginia – Friends and colleagues will gather today at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center to remember a Navy Corpsman who died while deployed on a humanitarian mission with the hospital ship Comfort.Chief Petty Officer Pamela Branum, 41, served in Pensacola, Florida; Guam, and, most recently, in Portsmouth.

She died June 2, 2009, in her sleep, aboard the Comfort. Her shipmates learned later that she had been promoted to Senior Chief that same day.

The investigation into her death is ongoing, but it appears to be natural causes, a Navy spokesman said. She will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery after the Comfort returns.

The executive officer of the Comfort, Captain John Larnerd, posted news of Branum's death on his blog last week. Larnerd said Branum was responsible for managing staff rotations, a major job on a ship with more than 500 personnel.

“Working just a few feet outside my office door, I saw her every day and was always impressed by her competence, her work ethic and her dedication to this important mission,” Larnerd wrote. “She will be greatly missed.”

He described the departure of her flag-draped casket, loaded onto a helicopter and flown off the ship in Panama. “As the helicopter's blades began to turn, two bells sounded and on the [intercom]: ‘Hospital Corpsman Chief, Departing,' rang throughout the ship,” Larnerd wrote on his blog.

More than 50 people, many of them current or former shipmates, left tributes on the site.

Her father, Larry T. Branum, posted one, too:

“Pam never quite felt like she was truly making a difference. She would say ‘Just doing my job, and I love my job.' Obviously, those of you who knew her (many of whom I have met) know that she did indeed make a difference in many lives over the years. I think she had a much greater impact than she ever realized,” he wrote.

He finished the tribute with a traditional naval phrase, used at retirements and promotions: “Fair winds and following seas, baby girl.”

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