A Fitting Tribute
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 1, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Don Clark photo / SMG]
Mark L. Brown, killed in action in the Vietnam War in 1969, was finally honored by his hometown during a ceremony on Sunday.
Family, town officials and members of the American Legion Post 35 dedicated a memorial plaque at the athletic field at Marston Elementary School in honor of the fallen soldier.
Brown, who was killed in Cambodia on Sept. 27, 1969, was one of only two soldiers from Hampton who gave their lives for their country, but were never recognized by the town before Sunday.
Officials honored the other soldier, Bruce Brown, no relation to Mark Brown, during a second ceremony on Sunday at the Marine Pier at Hampton Harbor.
Post 35 Commander Ralph Fatello said it was fitting to honor the Browns on April 29 because it was the 32nd anniversary of the last U.S. military operation in Vietnam — "Operation Frequent Wind." It was also the date when the last two Americans were killed in Vietnam.
"The irony of honoring the last two Hampton boys killed in Vietnam on the day the last two Americans were killed in Vietnam was not lost on any of us," Fatello said. "It was, we thought, a fitting tribute and honorable end to this final chapter in our national and local history."
At the ceremony, SAU 21 Superintendent James Gaylord presented Mark Brown's mother, Shirley Ladd, with his high school diploma. Brown never received his diploma because instead of returning for his senior year at Winnacunnet High School he joined the Army.
Maj. Fred Rice presented Ladd with her son's Presidential Unit Citation, which he never received.
"Mark was a member of a small, highly trained unit that performed incredibly brave and difficult missions," Rice said. "He was a true hero in every sense of the word."
A member of the Green Berets, Brown was awarded the Bronze Star with a V device for Valor, after he was killed in action.
"Mark was cited for bravery in providing cover to his team members as they moved to safety after being discovered by a hostile force deep inside Cambodia while on an intelligence gathering mission," Rice said.
On Sept. 26, 1969, the day before he was killed, the 19-year-old wrote his mother for the last time.
"I can't really tell you what I'm doing except to say I'm running top-secret missions (counter-guerrilla operations). They mess with our personnel all the time with booby-traps, snipers ... so we here at recon do the same to them. Some of the things these people do are so unbelievable that if I told someone they'd call me the biggest liar in the world. But I can't say anything. So what's the difference?
"Please don't worry in the least. I know you're probably worried but we've got lots of tricks up our sleeves."
Fatello said he is glad the town was finally able to honor both Browns.
"Somehow these two young men slipped through the cracks for almost 40 years," Fatello said.
Local historian and Post Chaplain John Holman got the ball rolling on honoring the two men. He discovered the men were never recognized and brought it to the attention of the post at its monthly meeting last year.
"We know that this monument that bears his name will be here long after we are all gone," Fatello said. "And in the future when some small child asks a parent about this monument, that parent will be able to tell that small child that this monument is dedicated to an American hero."