By Terry Savage
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 13, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Editor's note: Last month, the Hampton Board of Selectmen voted to name the town's new rescue pier after Bruce W. Brown, a Vietnam veteran and Hampton resident, who died as a result of battle wounds.
HAMPTON -- Now almost 40 years later, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first learned that he had been badly wounded. And over the years my thoughts have returned to him often.
I met him when I was 13. I didn't like him. He was bold, brash, confident. I was shy, insecure. I tried to get along, agreeing with his pronouncements.
"That's right," I'd say.
"Of course, it's right," he'd bluster. "I wouldn't have said it if it wasn't right!"
He was my senior in every way: older, bigger, quicker. And it didn't look like he was ever going to let me forget it.
It was father's fault that I had to deal with him at all. He'd arranged a job for me with a friend of his, Stan Brown. Stan owned the Western Auto store in the center of Hampton. Stan had a remarkable gift for mentoring. You didn't just work for Stan, you grew with him.
Even I grew. And over time, ever so gradually — through countless bicycle assemblies, mower repairs, washing machine installations, and all the rest that went with the store — mutual respect grew as well. My nemesis became my friend. "The friend," as was once said, "is another self." Not the self you see in the mirror, the other self, the one that helps define and complete you.
Bruce Brown died from his wounds. I feared it when I first heard the news, but still young myself, I could scarcely believe it was possible. He was the very embodiment of life, after all. I still think of him as one of the very brightest people I've known.
Stan had an old safe that was useless because no one knew the combination. Bruce took it apart for fun while on a lunch break one day and gave Stan the combination. And his zest for life was insatiable; if you were around him, you'd be drawn into that continual rush, like it or not.
Riding on the back of his Harley XLCH, I'd plan our conversation for the point just before the sharpest curve, hoping the distraction would slow him down. It didn't.
Bruce Brown was my friend. And I carry him with me to this day. But Bruce was much more than one person's friend. He was a son, a brother, a husband, and a father who never got to know his own son.
He was among the many called to serve his country; and among the few, and still too many, of Hampton's sons to make the ultimate sacrifice. To his fellow soldiers he was a comrade, a leader, and for some, quite literally a savior.
That Bruce would win the Silver Star, that he would put himself forward in the battle, that he would sacrifice everything to his mission and his comrades did not surprise me. He'd always seemed just a little larger than life.
A famous passage, speaking of other such sacrifices long ago, notes that such men "have the whole earth as their memorial: not only in the inscriptions on their graves ... but in people's hearts, their memory abides and grows."
And so Bruce remains in the hearts of his family, friends and comrades in arms.
But in Bruce Brown, Hampton also has a son who was a genuine hero, a potent symbol of life and sacrifice for all those who have faced danger in the service of their country. On behalf of those who knew and admired him, I would like to thank the Board of Selectmen for having honored Bruce and for assuring that his life and is sacrifice are identified with Hampton for all the years to come.
You have helped to ensure a lasting memory of an exceptional man, a man whose life and sacrifice are a fitting symbol of all the lives and all the sacrifices of Hampton's sons and daughters.
[Terry Savage is a resident of Brentwood.]