WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – An East High graduate said he had only been out of high school a week when his draft papers arrived.
Harold Brown said he was barely back from signing up in Kansas City when they called and told him to pack his bags because he was headed to Vietnam.
“When you go to war, you go to war,” Vietnam Veteran Harold Brown said.
That’s why Brown held on to a few things, he now keeps in a special shadow box.
“All this has been through rough, rough times,” Brown said.
His tours in Vietnam started in 1969.
“When we landed on the ground, we were being boarded with mortar rounds,” Brown said.
He was an ammunition specialist.
“There’s one of my choppers, I used to take care of,” Brown said.
He said they had to know where everything was, for each chopper.
He said there were crates of rockets, in big metal containers, and the often worked in darkness.
“When you go out to the airfield at night, you won’t, except for the lights on the choppers,” Brown said.
His job was to make sure the choppers were loaded with ammunition.
“When the ship comes in they’ll call in, and say get prepared for rockets, miniguns, ammunition,” Brown said.
Brown said you only had a certain amount of time to do the job.
He often worked at the ammo dump, but he also traveled into the field.
“A helicopter will come by and get me, as we load the helicopter up and go out to the field,” Brown said.
He also kept the choppers fueled.
“You just better hope it don’t hit nothing hot, on that helicopter,” Brown said. “If a splatter comes out of that hose, and it hits a hot spot, your gone,” Brown said.
He said the airfield was nonstop with choppers taking off and landing.
“They go out right behind each other, they either go in and out, in and out,” Brown said.
He said he would watch them take off in good shape.
“You pray to God they come back,” Brown said.
He said some never did.
“It just breaks your heart, it makes you feel like you died with them,” Brown said.
He remembered what the pilot of one chopper said before he took his final flight.
“I don’t know how he knew, but he did, he said, I will see you when I see you,” Brown said.
He said some never made it off the ground like the time a fuel tank exploded off a chopper.
Brown also has photos of one of the housing units that is riddled with bullet holes.
“Three of them got in, and that’s when they shot up the top of that,” Brown said.
He said the Vietcong soldiers were sneaky.
“I seen a guy come through seven layers of barbed wire, in seven seconds,” Brown said.
Brown says one time two Vietcong soldiers got inside the perimeter of the ammo dump.
“They got over there, in some kind of way, and they were throwing ammunition at each other, and it ricocheted and it just blew up my ammo dump,” Brown said.
He said the explosive ammo launched everywhere.
“I was only, oh like, about 200-300 feet away from it,” Brown said.
He was wounded with shrapnel but knew he had to help the others.
“You know, I am still standing here, so I had to say, go get them, go get them,” Brown said. “They were in shock, you know, I was in shock too.”
Brown earned a Purple Heart that day.
“That heart means I gave my heart,” Brown said.
He said some of the soldiers had no idea what they had just lived through.
“I helped some of the guys, that were laying on the ground, pulled them away from it you know. because the explosion took up almost half our airfield,” Brown said.
Despite all he saw, Brown volunteered for a third tour in Vietnam.
“Then, he was the oldest boy at home so he took care of the family while I was gone,” Brown said.
He signed up for a third year in Vietnam, to take the place of his younger brother.
“When I came back, he picked me up so high, I thought he was just going to throw me away,” Brown said.
More than three years after his Grandparents showed up to send him off, Brown finally made it home.
“The Vietnam war to me, will never leave,” Brown said. “You know a lot of guys that died by your side, that’s something that will stay in your head.”
He honored his fallen comrades, while on a Kansas Honor Flight with many other heroes.
He now keeps a photo of the Three Soldiers Statue he took while in Washington, D.C. in his shadow box.
He said the Honor Flight was an amazing trip where they finally felt like they got the welcome home, they waited decades to receive.
“The only welcome back when I got home was from a cab driver,” Brown said.
Brown talked about what a difference a class at the VA has made for him, as they gather to talk about all they endured and lived through.
There are many resources available, if you are in need of services.
You can always contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or by clicking here.