On Saturday evening at 2:00 p.m., September 26th, 2020, members from both the Collinwood American Legion Post 254 and Waynesboro Post 130 performed a Bridge Dedication Ceremony in honor of Marine Corps Sergeant David H. Brown, a true American Patriot who gave his life in defense of our country and our freedom. Family members, friends, and local Wayne County officials including 71st District State Representative David Byrd, Wayne County Mayor Jim Mangubat, 2nd District Commissioners Tom Mathis, Jr. and Stephen (Fuzz) Pevahouse, and Wayne County Road Commissioner Chuck Moser gathered for the dedication ceremony at the bridge spanning Eagle Creek on David Ray road near Clifton, Tennessee, the town where David was born.
The event began with the Invocation offered by Post 254 Chaplain Gary Anderson, followed by the Posting of the Colors and National Anthem. Next, the Brown family members were given the opportunity to speak and reflect on the life of their brother David. State Representative David Byrd then read and presented the Brown family with a document that was prepared by U.S. Congressman Mark Green to pay tribute to Sergeant Brown and his service and sacrifice to our country which he read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and entered into the Congressional Record of the 116th Congress, 2nd session. Next, Wayne County Mayor Jim Mangubat read the following Biography and Legislative Action concerning Sergeant Brown:
David Harold Brown, the son of Harold and Corenna (Rippy) Brown, was born on September 5, 1946 in Clifton, Tennessee. He had six siblings, brothers: Ronald, Edgar, and Anthony, and sisters: Gwendolyn, Barbara, and a half-sister Shelia Shaw. He and his family first lived in a tent on the banks of the Tennessee River in Clifton and later on a houseboat at the Clifton Marina. David attended Frank Hughes School in Clifton for a number of years before moving to Hardin County where he attended High School at Saltillo.
At the age of 17, with his mother’s permission, David left high school and went to Memphis and joined the Marine Corps on November 6th, 1963. He was then sent to Paris Island, South Carolina for boot camp. After his initial training, David had duty assignments in the Dominican Republic, Okinawa, and Rome before being sent to Viet Nam. Sergeant David Brown arrived in Viet Nam in September of 1966, and served as a Platoon Sergeant with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines, of the 3rd Marine Division.
Beginning in early 1967, his unit participated in three operations to prevent the North Vietnamese from crossing the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and attacking South Vietnam. Operation Hickory, 18 through 28 May, Operation Buffalo, 2 through 14 July, and Operation King Fisher from 16 July thru 31 October, 1967. Sergeant Brown received his first Purple Heart award for wounds received sometime during this period.
David thought of his fellow Marines as Brothers and would not hesitate to lay down his life for them. He was also a leader! He was smart and he was tough! He never hesitated when his fellow Marines were in trouble, he packed his gear, and instead of heading to the rear and preparing to leave Viet Nam, he volunteered to stay with his unit and moved with his platoon to the fight near Con Thein. And fight he did, gallantly and courageously, and without reservation!
On September 8th, Sergeant Brown’s “Lima Company” loaded on deuce and a half trucks of the resupply convoy that was headed to India Company’s position, a sister company that was under heavy enemy attack. When they arrived they immediately came under intense 140mm Rocket fire from the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) which resulted in one marine killed and 28 wounded. They quickly took up positions and returned fire and repulsed this attack. They then moved to link up with the rest of the 3rd Battalion which was located on a nearby hill. Sergeant Brown’s platoon dug in for the night and got what rest they could as they were almost always under rocket and mortar fire.
The next day Sergeant Brown’s Lima Company conducted patrols and assisted the battalion in establishing a command post and defensive perimeter on Hill 48 about 4 kilometers south of Con Thein.
On September 10, 1967, while moving in support of a sister company, approximately 6 kilometers southwest of Con Thien on Hill 48, Sergeant Brown’s platoon came under devastating enemy rocket, mortar, automatic weapons, small arms, and grenade fire from a well-coordinated and well equipped 812th NVA Regiment with many of the NVA soldiers wearing Marine Corps flak jackets and helmets. Quickly assessing the situation, Sergeant Brown established a platoon defensive position and brought fire to bear on the enemy. With complete disregard for his own safety, Sergeant Brown charged the enemy positions, hurling grenades and temporarily disrupting an enemy assault. Upon depleting his grenade supply, he returned through the intense enemy fire and obtained an M-79 grenade launcher from a wounded marine and again single-handedly assaulted the enemy positions, once again breaking up their assault and accounting for several enemy killed. After depleting all of his ammunition, Sergeant Brown dragged his wounded men to protected cover and moved among his men, directing their fire and encouraging them to fight until he was struck by enemy fire and died immediately.
It is also most important to note that Sergeant Brown was killed on the very day that he should have been on an airplane home. But, he knew that his fellow Marines were in trouble and needed help and there was no way he was going to leave. Instead, he stayed and returned to combat in an attempt to help his fellow Marines who had been ambushed and were under heavy attack by the entire 812th NVA Regiment.
Sergeant Brown was instrumental in stopping the enemy attack and saving numerous Marine lives. His commanding officer, who personally witnessed Sergeant Brown’s heroic actions, recommended him posthumously for the Congressional Medal of Honor, but someone in the chain of command, who was not there to fully understand just what courage and selfless sacrifice was shown on the battlefield that day, downgraded his recommendation to the Navy Cross, the second highest military award for Extraordinary Heroism in Combat. Sergeant Brown is buried in the Havanna Cemetery in Hardin County. He is also honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. on Panel 26E, Line 42. He was only 21 years and 5 days old.
After reading the citation, Mayor Mangubat also read the following Resolution dedicating the bridge to the memory of Marine Sergeant David H. Brown:
WHEREAS; it has been proposed to the Wayne County Commission that the bridge spanning Eagle Creek on David Ray Road near Clifton Tennessee be dedicated to the memory of SERGEANT DAVID H. BROWN;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Legislative Body of Wayne County, Tennessee meeting in regular session on the 22nd day of January, 2019 that the bridge spanning Eagle Creek on David Ray Road be named the “SERGEANT DAVID H. BROWN VIETNAM WAR VETERAN MEMORIAL BRIDGE.”
APPROVED: By unanimous Vote, Wayne County Commission
ATTEST: Stan Horton, County Court Clerk
SIGNED: Jim Mangubat, County Mayor
It is with great pride and honor that we remember David for his Gallantry on the Battlefield, and Selfless Service and Sacrifice when freedom was threatened and duty called. He is a “True American Hero” who we will never forget. We also want to remember David’s family for the Sacrifice and Hardships they have endured. It is our hope that these signs will forever memorialize Sergeant Brown and bring to remembrance to all who pass by, the supreme sacrifice he made to secure our Country’s safety and freedom.
Submitted by: Randy Chambers
Photos courtesy of Peggy Chambers