Johnny Brown: #039;A true patriot#039;

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Ed and Bonnie Brown talked with their son Johnny in Iraq on Wednesday.

He told them of the Iraqi children, who had no personal possessions, but were rich in hugs and kisses for the soldiers.

Ed and Bonnie Brown can take consolation in the knowledge that their son died knowing that their freedom was worth the fight.

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PFC Johnny Eli Brown, 101st Airborne, was killed Monday when an explosion rocked the vehicle in which he riding. Two other soldiers were killed in the explosion that occurred near the Baghdad Airport.

Shayne Brown said his brother's last conversation with his parents was very upbeat and he was proud of the job the military was doing in Iraq.

"Johnny said he was doing what he wanted to do and that, if anything happened to him, for us to hold our heads up and be proud of him," Shayne said, fighting back tears. "That's what we are going to do - hold our heads up because we are so proud of him."

Johnny Brown was a true patriot and wanted to show his love for his country by serving in the military, Shayne said.

"He joined the National Guard in Troy but he really wanted to be in the regular army," he said. "The 101st Airborne was Johnny's first choice and he was so excited to be a part of that unit. He was in the air assault school and was chosen to be the driver for the company commander. From what I understand, that's a real honor."

Shayne said his brother was extremely proud of the wings penned on his chest.

"The big thing with Johnny was flying in a helicopter and sliding down a rope," Shayne said. "Like in 'Black Hawk Down,' that was his job and he took great pride in being able to do it."

Johnny Brown was a confident young soldier and had no reservations about the job he was called to do.

"He wanted to be in the Army and he wanted to go to Iraq," Shayne said. "He wanted to do his part."

Although in recent days the liberation of Iraq seemed to be at hand, Shayne said he still had an uneasy feeling about the war effort.

"It just seemed like it went too easy," he said. "I worried that there could be more fierce fighting and more fatalities. I didn't think it was over with."

Shayne said his dad heard on television Monday that three soldiers in the 101st had been killed.

"Even though there are 20,000 soldiers in the 101st, he was concerned," Shayne said. "I was at work and didn't know about it.'

Shayne is a firefighter at Fort Rucker and "somewhere around" 9:30 p.m. Monday, he was summoned to the fire chief's office.

"When I walked up and saw the Army chaplain, I knew," he said. "He didn't have to say a word. I just knew."

Shayne's world suddenly crumbled and he knew that his parents' world was being turned upside down at the same time.

The drive from Fort Rucker back to Troy was the longest of Shayne's life. There was the image of a military vehicle pulling into his parents' drive interspersed with the outpouring and concern of his co-workers.

He thought about his brother and the supreme sacrifice he had made to help bring freedom to an oppressed people.

"I thought about my parents - all my family - and about Johnny and how proud he was to get a chance to do something so important," he said. "And, I kept thinking that we aren't the only ones who have had to face this. We're not the only ones with this hurt."

But, deep down, Shayne knew there will be a void in his life that will never be filled.

On Tuesday afternoon, he was still thinking the same thoughts as a steady stream of concerned and caring friends made their way to his parents' home.

The silence on the outside of the house was a prelude to the sorrow inside, but the sorrow didn't cloud the pride the family has in their soldier.

In a prepared statement the family said that Johnny was a person with a big heart and strong personal values. "He left a lasting impression on everyone he meets. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends."

Shayne said the family appreciates all expressions of concern but asked that everyone pray for all the military families.

The loss of Johnny Eli Brown brings the war close to home but Shayne said the effects of the war are being felt worldwide.

"We are not the only one hurting and we need to pray for everyone, worldwide," he said.

Pray for all of us."

Almost as an afterthought, Shayne also asked for prayer for those who are "the reason for the war."

"We need to pray for everyone - everyone. That's what we should do," he said.

Johnny Brown wanted to make a difference in the world and he did. And, the hugs and kisses of a band of Iraqi children told him so.

"And, if he had it to do all over again, he would do it," Shayne said. "He would."