Billy Brown re­mem­bered dur­ing an­nual Me­mo­rial Day cer­e­mony

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­tynews.com

— Bor­row­ing from the hugely pop­u­lar Broad­way mu­si­cal “Hamil­ton,” re­tired Rear Adm. Paul W. “Pete” Dilling­ham Jr. on Mon­day asked and then an­swered the ques­tions, “When you’re gone, who re­mem­bers your name? Who tells your story?”

Har­vard- and Naval War Col­legee­d­u­cated Dilling­ham told the story of Korean War vet­eran Wil­liam Thomas Brown in a stir­ring Me­mo­rial Day trib­ute in St. Paul’s Ceme­tery that was spon­sored by Frank M. Jar­man Amer­i­can Legion Post 36.

Brown had a short life, but a very fruit­ful life, Dilling­ham said of the Kent County na­tive who died in April 1989 — one month be­fore his 58th birth­day — due to com­pli­ca­tions of rheumatic fever.

Dilling­ham called Brown a “kin­dred soul.” They were born two months apart and grad­u­ated from high school on the same day.

Both men served their coun­try hero­ically.

As a young Air Force re­cruit, Brown did his ba­sic train­ing in Cal­i­for­nia. Next came “A School,” i.e. tech­ni­cal train­ing, in Illi­nois, where he be­came a skilled in­stru­ment me­chanic. His fouryear mil­i­tary com­mit­ment in­cluded

de­ploy­ment to Korea, where, among other du­ties, he tax­ied air­craft to the run­way for pi­lots.

Brown was hon­or­ably dis­charged in 1955, hav­ing achieved the rank of staff sergeant.

His dec­o­ra­tions in­cluded the Korean Ser­vice Medal, the Na­tional De­fense Ser­vice Medal, the United Na­tions Ser­vice Medal and the Good Con­duct Medal.

Brown re­turned to Kent County, mar­ried and raised a fam­ily in Rock Hall. Like many in the bay­side com­mu­nity, he made his life on the wa­ter — at first work­ing along­side his step­fa­ther and ul­ti­mately pur­chas­ing two work­boats of his own.

It was a good and re­ward­ing life, Dilling­ham said.

Mon­day’s trib­ute to Brown in­cluded a ri­fle salute, the plac­ing of a flo­ral wreath at his gravesite and a lone bu­gler’s call of taps.

Three gen­er­a­tions of the Brown fam­ily at­tended the 8:30 a.m. cer­e­mony, in­clud­ing daugh­ter Vickie An­der­son of Chestertown, grand­chil­dren Kris­ten Bed­ford, Johnny An­der­son and Ryan Buck­lew, and two great­grand­sons.

“Billy” Brown is buried next to his wife. Phyl­lis Brown’s brother and his wife, Joe and Charlotte Ga­gal­ski, who live part time in Rock Hall, also at­tended the cer­e­mony.

Post 36 Com­man­der Wal­ter Co­ryell served as mas­ter of cer­e­monies. Post 36 also provided the color guard, ri­fle salute and bu­gler.

The Amer­i­can Legion Rid­ers and Knights of Colum­bus also par­tic­i­pated.

Seated in the front row of chairs as­sem­bled near Brown’s gravesite was his child­hood friend Les Joiner of Chestertown.

They grew up to­gether as next-door neigh­bors in the Quaker Neck area, were three months and 10 days apart in age, and both served in Korea as part of their four-year mil­i­tary com­mit­ment.

Brown was sent to the West Coast for ba­sic train­ing, while Joiner stayed on the East Coast.

It was Brown who in­tro­duced Joiner to his wife of 65 years.

“We were brothers,” said Joiner, 86, wear­ing a navy blue base­ball-type cap with the words Korean vet­eran em­bla­zoned above the bill. He re­mem­bered his friend as “very gen­tle and lov­ing.”

It was cool and damp and over­cast Mon­day morn­ing, the weather suit­ing Dilling­ham’s somber message.

“We live in a very dan­ger­ous world and there are evil peo­ple out there,” he said. It’s im­por­tant that the youth of Amer­ica un­der­stand this, he said.

Dilling­ham said he was dis­ap­pointed that there were so few young peo­ple in the au­di­ence, and that his­tory and civics are not given more em­pha­sis in schools.

Ac­cord­ing to Dilling­ham, less than one-half of 1 per­cent of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion is serv­ing in the mil­i­tary to­day in the war on ter­ror­ism.

“Fewer and fewer peo­ple are shoul­der­ing more and more of the bur­den,” Dilling­ham said.

He said the Is­lamic State is still strong and spread­ing to Europe. He said Osama bin Laden’s 28-year-old son is as­cend­ing in the lead­er­ship ranks of al-Qaida.

North Korea also poses a se­ri­ous threat be­cause of its nu­clear weapons, Dilling­ham said.

Strik­ing a hope­ful beat, he then quoted former Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill, who said, “You can al­ways count on the Amer­i­cans to do the right thing, af­ter they have tried every­thing else.”

That elicited chuck­les from the au­di­ence.

“It’s not straight for­ward. It’s messy,” Dilling­ham said of the Amer­i­can form of gov­ern­ment. “But it’s democ­racy, the voice of the peo­ple.”

He con­cluded his re­marks by thank­ing ev­ery­one who has served in the mil­i­tary, “es­pe­cially Wil­liam Thomas Brown.”

Kent County’s ob­ser­vance of Me­mo­rial Day in­cluded a pa­rade in down­town Chestertown, led by the color guards of Post 36 and the Kent County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

Chestertown Elks Lodge 2474 spon­sored the pa­rade. Bill Blake of Bet­ter­ton Amer­i­can Legion Post 246, com­man­der of the Legion posts in Kent County, served as em­cee.

At the con­clu­sion of the pa­rade, Del. Jay Ja­cobs, R-36-Kent, thanked veter­ans for their ser­vice and thanked their fam­i­lies.

“An enor­mous amount of sac­ri­fice has been given to sup­port our free­dom,” Ja­cobs said. “We re­mem­ber and ap­pre­ci­ate the cost of free­dom.”

Ja­cobs sum­ma­rized the his­tory of Me­mo­rial Day, which was orig­i­nally known as Dec­o­ra­tion Day and hon­ored Union and Con­feder- ate sol­diers who had died in the Civil War.

In 1971, Con­gress passed leg­is­la­tion that es­tab­lished Me­mo­rial Day as a fed­eral hol­i­day to be cel­e­brated on the last Mon­day of May.

Ja­cobs also re­cited “In Flan­ders Fields,” one of the most memorable war po­ems.

“It’s not just the kick­off to sum­mer and day to open the pool,” he said of Me­mo­rial Day.

At noon Mon­day, in a cer­e­mony in Mon­u­ment Park that was spon­sored by Sum­ner Hall, wreaths were placed at the obelisk that hon­ors African Amer­i­can veter­ans and the large gran­ite mon­u­ment that hon­ors Kent County sol­diers — who fought for the Union and the Con­fed­er­acy — who were killed in the Civil War.

“We re­mem­ber the lives lost and the sac­ri­fices made,” said Nina Johnson, Sum­ner Hall’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

Yvette Hyn­son, a Sum­ner Hall board mem­ber, sang “Amaz­ing Grace” and sev­eral in the small group that gath­ered of­fered their thoughts about what free­dom and ser­vice to coun­try mean.

Larry Sa­muels, a U.S. Navy vet­eran, said he re­spected some­one’s right to protest, kneel dur­ing the play­ing of the na­tional an­them and not salute the Amer­i­can flag. But we should never dis­re­spect the men and women who put their lives on the line in ser­vice of Amer­ica, he said.

PHOTO BY TR­ISH MCGEE Korean War veter­ans Les Joiner, fore­ground, and Jack Diller, both of Chestertown, look at pho­to­graphs of Me­mo­rial Day hon­oree Wil­liam Thomas Brown. Also pic­tured is Dot­tie Joiner. “Billy” Brown in­tro­duced Dot­tie and Les Joiner, who have been mar­ried 65 years.

Del. Jay Ja­cobs, R-36-Kent, de­liv­ers a Me­mo­rial Day message at the con­clu­sion of a pa­rade down Chestertown’s High Street. PHOTO BY TR­ISH MCGEE

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