Recalling the actions that earned him the Bronze Star in Vietnam, Carlyle Brown speaks in words that are moving and evocative of the experience of so many veterans that served in that war: “I don’t feel I did anything special. I just did what I was supposed to do.” In other words, Brown did his duty.
Born and raised in rural Linden, Michigan, after high school Brown attended Central Michigan University when, after a year and a half as a student there, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1966 for a four-year commitment with an Aviation guarantee. After training, Brown left in November 1966 for Vietnam, ultimately ending up in the northern I Corps region along the DMZ. Serving as a door gunner on a helicopter gun ship in I Corps from August 1967 until July 28, 1968, Brown was assigned to USMC Base X at Quang Tri and served during the action at Con Thien, the 1968 Tet Offensive, the battle of Hue, various engagements along the Perfume River and the DMZ and, of course, at the siege of Khe Sanh.
Near the conclusion of the siege of Khe Sanh, Brown’s gunship was called in to support a nearby special intelligence operation at the DMZ that was under attack from elements of the People’s Army of North Vietnam (the NVA). While his pilot hovered close above the fight and within range of the NVA forces, Brown manned his door gun and laid down a continuous and withering field of fire that allowed the troops and their rescue helicopter crew to safely escape. It was for this meritorious service that Brown received the Bronze Star. He was also awarded five Air Medals, two Presidential Unit Citations, the Major Unit Citation, the Vietnamese Cross with Gold Palm and the Vietnamese Civil Action Citation.
Like so many Vietnam veterans, when he left the Marine Corps and returned home to Michigan in 1970, Brown did not receive any community recognition or engagement. He worked in Michigan for the successor of Michigan Bell for 28 years until his retirement in 1998. He also began a now lifelong commitment to the involvement with and recognition of veterans of all wars who served to protect America by attending many of the annual events at Michigan’s Military & Space Heroes Museum. After retiring to Scottsdale in 1999, Brown became active in supporting and honoring veterans here in Arizona, including his annual attendance at the RAF Cadet Memorial Service held at the City of Mesa Cemetery to honor the 23 RAF Cadets who lost their lives in flight training at #4 British Flying School (later Mesa’s Falcon Field) during World War II.
Today, Brown lives in Mesa (very close to Falcon Field), is active in his church and continues to support his fellow veterans everywhere.
Brown expresses his feelings about being a Vietnam Grand Marshal in this year’s Phoenix Veterans Day Parade with his usual humility and grace: “I never would have believed that a boy from a village in Michigan would have ended up with such an honor from the fourth-largest Veterans Day Parade in America.” Would serve his country again like he did in Vietnam? “In a heartbeat!” he exclaims.
We hope you will join us at the 20th Annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade on November 11, 2016, to see Celebrity Grand Marshal Pete Hegseth and all eight Veteran Grand Marshals. This year’s parade theme is “Welcome Home Vietnam Heroes.” The parade typically boasts more than 100 entries, and this year will have a special float with nearly 20 Vietnam Veterans riding on it. The parade will also feature patriotic floats, high school marching bands, JROTC marching units, color guards, Veterans Service Organizations, animals, novelty units and much, much more.
For more information on the parade and the parade route, click HERE.