BVL Executive Director Mary Harrar will never forget the first time she met Dennis Brummitt at the 2016 USBC Convention in Las Vegas. Harrar had heard about the affable veteran who was also an all-star BVL fundraiser in Arizona. When she walked up to introduce herself, Harrar mentioned that she had been told he was a former Marine.

Brummitt gave her the response that still makes her smile today: “Once a Marine, always a Marine”.

That moment was a glimpse into what fuels Brummitt’s drive to give back to his fellow veterans through BVL. “When you talk to Dennis about being a Marine, he is so passionate about helping his brothers and sisters, fellow veterans – it’s become his goal,” said Harrar. “He is persistent and sincere, and he doesn’t let people not give him money. When you see Dennis, you open your wallet,” she adds with a laugh. “He is the sweetest bulldog I’ve ever met.”

That bulldog started his military service soon after attending Northern Arizona University, a place Brummitt said he “spent more time rodeoing and playing bridge than I did anything else.” He decided that with the Draft coming up, it was time to “get my butt to where I want to be”. In December 1965, he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he trained to be a tank mechanic. The first tour in Vietnam started on Labor Day 1966. He returned in February 1968 during the Tet Offensive for a year-long stint. His second tour was motivated by his brother, who was a forward observer in Vietnam. After leaving military service in 1969, Brummitt worked with the Phoenix police department for a few months before moving to Northern California. There, his job with JC Penney evolved into a regional security management position covering 11 Western states.

A few years later, Brummitt and his wife returned to her home state of Maryland, but a family medical emergency brought him back to the West Coast to help his younger sister care for their ill mother. A part-time job with AMF Bowling then became a full-time career after his mother passed in 1997. His childhood connection with bowling, where he was a pinsetter as a young boy, was rekindled even as two heart attacks and a simultaneous bilateral knee replacement sidelined Brummitt from the sport he loved when he went on disability in 2004.

Physical challenges curtailed his on-the-lanes participation, but it didn’t slow down his passion for bowling. Serving in several roles with local bowling associations for the better part of two decades, Brummitt was elected as president of Metro Phoenix USBC in 2018.

Bowling associations are responsible for much of the annual BVL funds raised to support recreation therapy for veterans. Metro Phoenix USBC, led by Marine veteran Dennis Brummitt (pictured with BVL representative Libbi Fletcher), has raised more than $200,000 for BVL since 2010. The funds have been used to support VA recreation therapy programs at a number of facilities including Arizona State Veterans Hospital, Tucson VA Medical Center and Carl Hayden VA Hospital.

“Our biggest challenge is always awareness but now we talk about BVL 12 months of the year,” said Brummitt. He simplified his first Association fundraising efforts by just asking for a pledge at league and Association organizational meetings and assuring donors that the dollars would stay locally to help out Arizona-based veterans. It’s hard to say no to Brummitt. Pledges, along with a series of sports auctions and other special events, started to roll in as USBC Metro Phoenix quickly became the top fundraising association in the nation. When he took over in 2010, the donations totaled just north of $4,000. Since then, he has commanded the charge for USBC Metro Phoenix to consistently lead the nation in BVL association fundraising since the 2015-16 season, raising more than $30,000 in each of those years.

Well-known for tracking every donation down to the cent, it’s become a standing operating procedure for Brummitt to round up the numbers with his own money, or venture out on one of his frequent road trips to find the perfect auction item. Last year he picked up artwork of a bald eagle and auctioned it off to benefit BVL. After a spirited auction, Brummitt emerged as the winning bidder and is planning a post-pandemic road trip to deliver the donation and the artwork to Harrar in Pennsylvania so BVL can turn around and auction it off again at Bowl Expo 2021.

“You have to show people what this money does,” said Brummitt. “I show pictures of the veterans who get a wheelchair or benefit from a VA recreation therapy program. I’m speaking to them as a Marine disabled from the effects of Agent Orange, which also led to my heart attacks and prostate cancer. I always let people know that it is by the grace of God that I’m still here, and I’m here to help other veterans. You tell bowlers the stories about what BVL can do and they will give with love.”

Along the way, he discovered that BVL was the perfect connection between his two worlds – bowling and giving back to veterans. Since taking the fundraising leadership role in 2010, Brummitt has galvanized USBC Metro Phoenix efforts throughout the region. While Brummitt will continue as a BVL Ambassador, he is stepping aside as the point person for BVL fundraising for USBC Metro Phoenix. However, his commitment to other veterans remains unwavering. Even a pandemic hasn’t curtailed his mission.

After a recent visit to the USBC Metro Phoenix office to pick up a donation check for $1,930, Brummitt decided to add his own personal $1,500 check to bring the 2019-2020 total to more than $34,600. His contribution also put USBC Metro Phoenix over the $200,000 mark since he started during the 2010-11 season. The note that accompanied the donation was as heartfelt and genuine as the man himself. “These last 10 years have changed my life more than anyone can ever know, for the good. My work for the Veterans and my personal donations are made in the memory of the 58,000+ who died in Vietnam, and to honor my brother who spent 2 years In Country, and my sister-in-law who helped so many in the S. Vietnam hospitals as an Army nurse. They are 2 very special people.” 

If there was a Sergeant Major equivalent for special people, it would be hard to find a better appointment than Dennis Brummitt. Once a Marine, always a Marine.