UPDATE: Veteran David Brayton Dies 18 Months After Finally Receiving Lung Transplant

David and Courtney Brayton attend the Los Angeles premiere of the Gosnell film on October 12, 2018. (Photo Courtesy of Courtney Brayton.)

California veteran David Brayton, whose fight with the Veterans Administration for a lung transplant RedState covered, has died.

David received his lung transplant at UCLA just after Father’s Day 2018. His condition improved and he was able to participate in some “normal” life events, but had been hospitalized multiple times since the transplant. In early December his health significantly deteriorated and he was again admitted to UCLA. His wife, Courtney, was almost always at his bedside. They were able to spend one last Christmas together, though David was asleep most of the day.

Courtney Brayton with her husband on Christmas Day.

He passed away at UCLA on the afternoon of December 31, surrounded by his family.

Brayton was a fierce and vocal fighter for conservatism, for pro-life issues, and was a passionate patriot. At the beginning of his career he was a classic Hollywood rock-and-roll liberal, but was blacklisted after he became a conservative. Until illness struck he was a fixture at Hollywood conservative events, particularly at events organized by Rage Against the Media. Sabo, the conservative street artist, said of Brayton:

I’m happy to have had a conversation with David just last week I believe it was. Thank you Lord for giving me what time I had with him. I pray for his family. May God be with them. I’m so sorry for your loss.

Brayton was also an unwavering supporter of President Donald Trump. For years Brayton’s Facebook name was “David Benghazi Brayton” because he was dedicated to ensuring that what happened in Benghazi wasn’t forgotten. It was an odd irony that on the day Brayton died, the mainstream #FakeNews media were characterizing an attack on the American Embassy in Baghdad as President Trump’s Benghazi. This tweet from President Trump caught Brayton’s son’s eye:

Colton wrote:

“I’m confident that he tweeted this directly to my dad at the exact date and time of passing.”

After his transplant, Brayton was featured in a campaign ad for then-Rep. Steve Knight, whom Brayton credited for helping him finally receive approval to have his transplant performed in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, Knight’s opponents “pounced” on Brayton, calling him an “unrepentant racist” and “white supremacist” because of his social media postings. A smear campaign, including stories in Roll Call and the L.A. Times claiming that Brayton’s posts encouraged and supported violence against minorities and journalists, brought such negative publicity that the Braytons’ real estate photography business went down by 40 percent. Even then-candidate Katie Hill, who eventually won the general election, issued a statement condemning Brayton:

“I sincerely hope that Knight immediately apologizes to those groups who were targeted by the hateful speech perpetuated by his supporter. Knight, by featuring this individual, continuing to allow the ad to run, and refusing to condemn the remarks and behavior, is unfortunately complicit in creating a culture that divides us for political gain, and at the extremes, permits and encourages violence.”

Instead of directing the bulk of their attacks at Knight, both Hill’s campaign and local activists took the unprecedented step of engaging in the politics of personal destruction against an everyday citizen.

As I wrote in my series about Brayton’s transplant journey, David and Courtney are long-time friends. In the fall of 2019, David Brayton shared his feelings about the effects of the smear campaign with me (while he was texting me to see how I was doing in the midst of being the target of a different smear campaign). He was working on ways to undo the damage that had been done to his name and to his business and was frustrated that he wasn’t more physically able to help his wife rebuild their business. He said:

“That’s been the most heartbreaking part after the transplant and s**t… then watching Courtney have to resurrect what my reputation hampered hard.

“My story is the perfect example of the left screaming at others what they do themselves…the height of projection and hypocrisy.”

His family and their welfare were on his mind until the end. One friend, Rochelle Sollish, wrote to Brayton’s son about her recent visit to the hospital.

Hi Colton, I visited your dad in the hospital last Friday. I noticed his eyes were all red. He said he had been crying because he didn’t want to go. I told him nothing was certain and he could leave the hospital well. I told him to not think about the outcome; just let it go and let the universe take its course. He agreed. What’s particularly striking is he never complained. Always smiling. Upbeat. Always had his booming voice. He was the most remarkable man. He loved America deeply. He loved your mom more than anything. His family was everything to him. He will always watch over you.

Local media couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pounce again when they heard of his death. A story titled “Controversial Santa Clarita Veteran Dies” was posted just hours after Brayton’s passing, referencing all of the year-old smear stories. The piece was taken down after complaints from Brayton’s friends.

Another mutual friend perfectly summed up the feelings of our group of California conservatives (the true #resistance) :

The Lord must have needed a badass warrior lion at his side, but I’m going to be holding this one against Him for some time to come. Rest in Peace, dear David. [My wife] and I will sorely miss you, sir. Courtney, I can’t believe how fiercely and long and unflinchingly you fought this battle. You are a shining example of what it means to be a wife, a mother, and a warrior, Mrs. Brayton. We stand in awe of you, and more than a little abashed to witness your pure love, honor and selflessness. We hope you can find some small measure of peace in knowing that your beloved husband is beyond any pain now, and his memory will be deeply cherished by all of us. We love you both.

A memorial service at a local gun range where David and Courtney Brayton were active in shooting clubs is planned, with burial at a national cemetery in his home state of Nebraska to be scheduled at a later date.

(For any readers interested in helping the family, GoFundMe has been set up to assist Courtney Brayton with living costs as she attempts to rebuild the family business while grieving, and to pay for medical and memorial costs not covered by the VA.)