Vietnam vet from Upper St. Clair to be honored by VFW
Rushed from the front lines with severe wounds from an enemy hand grenade during the Vietnam War, Army 1st Lt. Neil Brown resolved to return to the battlefield.
Within a day, he reunited with his reconnaissance platoon, the stitches across the left side of his body fresh, despite warnings from field surgeons.
“I just wanted to be back out in the field with the guys,” Brown, 66, of Upper St. Clair recalled. He was referring to his platoon, part of the 101st Airborne Division, which would overcome the enemy in four consecutive days of close-quarters combat shortly after his return.
His exploits during that episode, in the A Shau Valley in northeast Vietnam in 1969, earned him the Silver Star, among the military's most prestigious awards. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
In a ceremony scheduled for Sunday, a plaque bearing his portrait and a description of his actions is to join nearly three dozen others on the dining room wall of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 764 in the McMurray section of Peters.
“I think once you've been in a war zone, it never leaves you,” said Bob Donnan, 63, of Peters, chairman of the post's committee that maintains the wall. He served in Vietnam, for less than a year, as a clerk responsible for compiling military awards.
“It's not something you take lightly,” said 1st Lt. Dan O'Neill, a longtime friend of Brown's — he referred to him as “Brownie” — who underwent training with him before the two were deployed by the same aircraft to Vietnam. They returned to the states together, too, after serving in the same division for about a year.
For Brown, a longtime executive vice president of a nationwide insurance company who is undergoing treatment for pneumonia, the June 8 ceremony is significant.
“That's your peers, saying, ‘Thank you,' ” Brown said.
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.