Sunday, July 31, 2011

Military Monday - The Cousin I Never Met Was Closer Than I Ever Expected!

Hazleton Standard Speaker, 30NOV1967, pg1
I posted information on Michael Paul Brown previously.  I had his tombstone but no obituary.  During my trip home I made sure to get a copy of his obituary.  I made some very interesting discoveries upon reading it as well.  More on that in a bit.  First his obit:

"Local Soldier War Casualty In S. Vietnam

A 22-year-old Hazleton man died from a gunshot wound in South Vietnam on Sunday after his military vehicle had been hit by a hostile rocket, according to word received yesterday by his parents.

Specialist Five Michael P. Brown, son of Mr and Mrs. Neil Brown of 644 N. Wyoming St., thus became the area's fourth casualty of the war in Southeast Asia.

The 1964 graduate of Hazleton High School was killed by a bullet when the vehicle in which he was returning from a forward base camp was hit by rocket fire, a telegram from Washington related to his parents.  Earlier in the day, an Army sergeant broke the news to the Browns.

The telegram did not specify where in Vietnam the action took place.  Brown was a linguist with the 335th R.R.C.

No ward has been received yet on when the body will be shipped here.

He enlisted in the Army on Oct. 26, 1965, took basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., completed language training as a specialist in Vietnamese at the U.S. Army Language School in the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., and arrived in Vietnam in February 1967.

Before his enlistment, Brown worked for Home Delivery Pizzeria.

Born in Hazleton, he was the son of Neil and Dorothy (Gillespie) Brown.  His father is employed at Hazleton Brick Co.

Brown was a member of St. Gabriel's R. C. Church.

Surviving are his parents; three brothers, Neil Jr., Dennis, and Timothy and a sister, Patricia, all at home; and his maternal grandfather, Frank Gillespie, Hazleton.

Three other area young men have died in action in Vietnam."

As I mentioned before, Michael was my 2nd cousin once removed.  I knew from his military gravestone that he was a member of a Radio Research Company (R.R.C.) which I assumed to be some kind of signals and intelligence unit.  I was a military intelligence Soldier so I always felt drawn to Michael because I believed his military occupation would have been reasonably similar to mine.  Holy cow, did I underestimate the similarity!

He wasn't just an intel Soldier, but a linguist like I was.  He graduated from the "U.S. Army Language School in the Presidio of Monterey, Calif", which is the language school I graduated from although the name had changed when I went through to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.  Granted he studied Vietnamese and I studied Russian, but different times call for different languages and I came in as the Cold War was winding down.

Even though Michael was born a generation before me, we were from the same hometown so there were many similarities.  He graduated from Hazleton High School.  I moved during my senior year so while I didn't graduate from Hazleton High School, I did go there for 2 of 3 years.  Saint Gabriel's was his church.  It's a family church for us.  Our ancestors were there from the beginning and were active members.  For me, I was the last person in my line baptized there.  Then my mom moved to a different part of town and we went to another Catholic church a couple blocks away.

I hate the fact that my cousin died so young, but I'm incredibly proud of his military service.  Michael was not the only Soldier that died that day in Vietnam.  I looked up a webpage for his old unit, the 335th Radio Research Company, Army Security Agency, 9th Infantry Division.  One of the pages gave a history of the 335th and part of it mentions that day in November 1967:

"While in Vietnam, the 335th Radio Research Company suffered the loss of four men killed in action, all during the first year in country. SFC John F. Stirling was killed on 8 March 1967 during a mortar attach at the detachment at Tan An.  On 26 November 1967, SFC Robert D. Taylor, SGT Diego Ramierez, Jr., and SP5 Michael P. Brown were killed on Highway 4 in the vicinity of Xom Dua when the 1/4 ton vehicle in which they were traveling was hit by an enemy B40 recoilless round at close range."

It was the first year the unit and Michael were in country and three in one day.  I still have to request that military record for Michael.  I never noticed it before, but on his military marker it has "Vietnam PH"  I'm assuming that means he was awarded the Purple Heart.  I should hope he was. Hopefully I can find out more about his time at DLI.  Was there anywhere on post that they remembered former students that were killed in action?  You'd think I'd know this having been stationed there as a trainee and as a Drill Sergeant, but nope...I'm clueless there.  Fortunately, I've got friends that still float in and out of there.  I'm sure I can find someone to help discover more about Michael and preserve his memory.