Bryan and White Lake Police Chief Donald Kinlaw were the first officers to respond when Carl McNeill Jr. robbed the Kelly Post Office on July 15, 2002.
Bryan had pulled over behind McNeill on the side of N.C. 53 near the WECT Tower when McNeill jumped from his truck and opened fire.
Bryan returned fire, but was wounded in the face during the attack. McNeill fled when Kinlaw arrived on the scene seconds later, and was captured a few miles away by Dep. Jonathan Brisson.
McNeill was later sentenced by a U.S. District Court Judge to 37 years and four months in federal prison. He is still awaiting trial on state and local charges from the robbery and shooting.
"All I cared about at that time," Bryan said, "was seeing my family again."
Bryan thanked his family and his fellow officers Thursday after he was awarded the U.S. Post Office Chief Inspector's Award for Bravery, the American Police Silver Star, and the American Police Purple Heart.
"There were so many people that went beyond the call to help," he said, "from officers with other agencies to the EMTs and the doctors and nurses. I owe so much to so many people, I'm afraid I'll leave someone out."
Bryan's wife Lisa also was honored by the American Police Hall of Fame.
Kinlaw was honored last year by the Bladen County commissioners and the town of White Lake. He is retiring this week after 33 years in law enforcement.
Around 65 people attended Thursday's ceremony, including state Sen. Tony Rand, Rep. Edd Nye, and county and town commissioners from across Bladen.
Bryan's parents and extended family, mother-in-law, and sons Tyler and Blake sat on the front row of the superior court room, surrounded by representatives from all local, county, state, and federal law agencies involved in the case, plus those of several neighboring counties.
Bladen County Sheriff Steve Bunn presented the awards on behalf of the American Police Hall of Fame. Asst. Chief Postal Inspector Gary Cogdell presented the awards from the Postal Service.
"There is a time when everyone has to decide if they are going to roll over and give up, or stand tall," Bunn said. "Eric stood tall."
Bunn, who has said the shooting was the "second worst experience of my law enforcement career, the first being the loss of Jamie Collins"-said Bryan has a passion for law enforcement that, along with his love for his family, kept him alive.
"If you can imagine," Bunn said, "the gunfire is deafening, Eric's car is being shot up, he's wounded-and he sees a copy of a photo of his family on his dashboard, and decides he is going to live. That is courage."
"It's taken a lot of healing," Bryan said, "but nothing can make me prouder than to be back in uniform."
Bryan is now the sergeant of the civil division with the Bladen County Sheriff's Department.