By CLINT FOSTER
A decisive part of the human spirit is the hope that one’s life meant something, that they made an impact on those around them. It is safe to say that is the case for the late First Sergeant Kevin Brown, whose legacy continues to grow over a year after his death.
In March, Brown joined the ranks of Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Omar Bradley and John McCain when he was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit – the sixth-highest honor in the United States Military.
His father, Jerry Brown, accepted the award in his honor at a ceremony at Fort Hood in front of the Sergeant’s entire battalion.
“It just makes me proud,” Jerry Brown said. “Every time I think about it, my eyes start sweating. You can’t be more proud of a son than I was of him. We were very close. He was an amazing man, soldier and son.”
Brown, who was murdered by his wife – now serving 40 years in Gatesville – at their Mineral Wells home in May of last year, had already garnered a long list of awards and achievements over his 32 years his service in the U.S. Army and National Guard. In fact, his father said the sergeant’s uniform “looked like a fruit salad on the front” because of the many colorful medals and ribbons.
A veteran of two tours in Iraq, Brown’s illustrious career culminated as the supervisor of the Unit Training Equipment Site No. 2 for the Texas Army National Guard at Fort Wolters, where he worked until his death.
Brown’s career began when he enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school in Joshua in 1980. The Arlington native served three years in Germany as a battle tank mechanic and earned the rank of sergeant. In 1987, he enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard as a motor sergeant, where he continued to impress and move up the chain of command. According to Brown’s Legion of Merit narrative, he was critical during the new equipment fielding of 50 M1 Abrams tanks and facilitated a seamless transition of more than 50 M60A3 tanks.
In 2004, Brown reclassified as an infantry soldier and deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His first tour in Iraq was two years and he participated in multiple combat patrols. He was deployed to Iraq again in 2009 as a platoon sergeant, supervising 48 soldiers in the 72nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. During this second tour, he was appointed Commander of the Guard responsible for over 400 detainees and he was also responsible for completing 120 zone searches with Military Police, without incident or injury to any of his men.
When Brown returned from Iraq permanently, he eventually became First Sergeant of Bravo Company, 949th Brigade Support Battalion.
There he was instrumental in preparing his unit of more than 90 soldiers for mobilization in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His training proved flawless, as his unit provided safe movement for more than 2,000 combat infantry soldiers traveling over 800 miles in vehicle convoys from home station to Fort Bliss.
Brown’s award narrative had this to say:
“First Sergeant Kevin J. Brown’s actions over 32 years of military service are a testament to his character as a leader and soldier. First Sergeant Brown was a high caliber noncommissioned officer that exemplified the Army values and displayed outstanding leadership.”
Staff Sergeant Robert Davis became close friends with Brown over the course of 13 to 14 years that they worked together. Although Davis and Brown were in different units, Davis thought very highly of Brown and said he only wished Brown could be alive to receive his most recent award.
“He was more or less a mentor to half of us,” Davis said. “He was the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back. If you messed up, he’d put you in the right direction. If you were in trying times, he’d lend a hand. When I went through my divorce, he was there for me.”
In addition to the many lives he touched, Brown’s memory will forever be enshrined by a large stone monument bearing his name that was unveiled last August at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2399 in Mineral Wells. The VFW also has a flag and a plaque in his honor and the local American Legion Hall displays a cannon built by the first sergeant himself.
“What can you say about an American hero?” Brown’s father asked rhetorically. “He was just a standup guy. If he was your friend, he had your back and you knew it. He didn’t have to say it. If you spoke to all of his troops, they’d tell you the same thing.”
As Jerry Brown said upon his son’s admittance into the Legion of Merit, truly First Sergeant Brown’s name will forever be linked to the names of the many American legends who came before him. As it should be.
Follow Clint on Twitter @Clint_Foster55