RICHARD J BROWN - SGT
- pine beach
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- June 27, 1944
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- October 26, 1967
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Richard J. Brown was born in Lakehurst, NJ, on June 27, 1944. Richard and his brother, Robert, were the sons of Mary Whaley Brown and James W. Brown. Their father died in 1965, and their mother died in 2000. Richard lived in the tiny borough of Pine Beach, NJ, on the south bank of the Toms River. To friends and family he was known as "Skip". His home of record is Pine Beach, NJ.
Richard attended Toms River Elementary, Intermediate and Senior High Schools. He dropped out of high school in his senior year and joined the US Marine Corps. He later completed his high school studies in the Marines.
A highlight of Skip's teen years was the 1956 blue and white Chevy, two-door hardtop that he purchased while in high school. He knew something about auto mechanics and reworked the entire engine. He raced the car at Wall Township Speedway and finally ended up selling it for a substantial profit.
"My brother had a troubled time during his high school years. He never placed much emphasis on studies and consequently did poorly in school," Robert recalls. "That said, he was quite popular among his social circle of friends. After he joined the Marines, his life turned around. I believe it gave him an opportunity to prove himself. He did extremely well in boot camp and graduated first in his class achieving the rank of Private First Class (PFC) immediately. He was a changed individual and a much better person for his experience with the Marines. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam."
Life was cut short for Skip Brown during his second tour of duty in Vietnam. He died on October 26, 1967, in a military hospital in Vietnam. He suffered multiple fragmentation wounds several days earlier after being hit by shell fragments while leading a night patrol near Kuan Nam, Quang Nam Province. He was 23 years old. He was serving with the 3rd Platoon, Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Brown was cited as a hero and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in action while serving in Vietnam.
Months after his death, at a ceremony held at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, his mother was presented with her son's Silver Star medal and a citation which posthumously honored him for gallantry in action and praised him for saving the lives of several Marines when he threw a live hand grenade from a foxhole, silencing an enemy mortar and machine gun position. That act of heroism took place on September 6, 1967, more than a month before he was killed.
He had suffered a severe hand injury during an earlier 13-month tour in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart. However, after a period of recuperation stateside he signed up to return to active duty in the war zone, returning there on June 25, 1967.
Every year on Memorial Day residents gather for a service in front of the Pine Beach Fire Department complex, where monuments stand in tribute to those who served in all wars. On the Vietnam memorial monument, inscribed on a bronze plaque is a special remembrance of Richard Brown. It reads:
"I for one, can think of no better way to die than for freedom. I pray to God that the people of the US and the world will one day understand - RJB"
The words were written by Skip Brown in a letter to the editor of Life magazine, commending the accuracy of an article on the war, The Blunt Reality of War, by Michael Mok, in Life International, January 10, 1967. His letter was published in full.
Sources: Anne Cullen (volunteer) and NJVVMF.
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