Orangeburg resident and U.S. Army Vietnam veteran Timothy C. Brown recalls when danger was a constant companion during his 10 months in a combat zone.

“When they had the air strikes, we would have to go into the bunker,” said Brown, who was a truck driver with the U.S. Army 318 Engineer Unit stationed in Pleiku, the central highlands of Vietnam. “They had the mortar attacks and we were getting hit. It never hit our barracks.”

“When I went over, I am thinking they are gonna put me in the kitchen,” Brown said, adding that during basic training he served as a cook. “Well, they didn’t. They needed a truck driver. They had plenty of cooks in the unit they assigned me to.”

Brown’s responsibility was to haul food and water from the U.S. Air Force base in Pleiku back to the U.S. Army base.

The mortar rounds were a constant.

“It was kind of rough as far as the fear of the next time they hit, it will be us,” Brown said. “The sergeant kept telling us, ‘Okay, they called the enemy Charlie.’ He would always say every other day or so, ‘Hey, Charlie is coming tonight.'”

People are also reading… $1 for the first 26 weeks

Brown said the enemy would often try to penetrate the perimeter, which was feet from Brown’s barracks.

“They never made it all the way through because they got blown away,” Brown said. “Whenever they penetrated, we would still have to hit the bunker. We were constantly hitting that bunker to keep from getting blown away.”

Brown said the barracks where he was staying was pinned between the perimeter and the helicopter pad.

“The number one target they tried to always hit was the helicopter pad,” Brown said. “In order to hit the helicopter pad, they have to come right across our barracks. That is what made it so fearful. That hey, tonight or tomorrow night, it is going to be us.”

“A lot of times, you don’t have time to get in a bunker,” Brown said. “They had fox holes too, but we would always use the bunker.”

Brown said sleeping with his M14 rifle was common.

“You hugged it every night in the bed,” he said.

Another constant companion was landmines.

“One my buddies, he hit one, and of course, he lost his life,” Brown said. “The Lord fixed it where I just never hit one in all the 10 months I was driving a truck.”

Brown said he thinks the road he traveled did not not have many landmines due to it being heavily traveled.

“Plus, they were running patrol to the point where it was kind of hard to plant a landmine and you taking the chance of getting blown away yourself,” Brown said. 

The experience left Brown with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Right now, whenever I walk out in the back yard and a helicopter passes, I am looking because it makes a noise,” he said. “Everybody that was in a combat zone over there, including me, they ended up with PTSD. On top of that, they had Agent Orange that we actually inhaled. It is a wonder that we did not catch lung cancer.”

Brown is currently drawing some disability for damage caused by Agent Orange.

“There was no way for you to be there and not inhale it because it was in the air,” Brown said. “You could smell it, just like ammonia. We didn’t know the name of it at the time, but we knew, ‘Hey, there is something in this air.'”

Brown said there was always a glimmer of hope in Vietnam, and this was called rest and recuperation times. These times were something everyone looked forward to.

“That keeps you going,” Brown said. 

He got two-week-long vacations and chose to use the time to go to Bangkok, Thailand, and Tokyo, Japan.

Another thing that kept him going was the bonding he made with his “buddies.”

“We helped each other mentally,” he said.

Brown said one of his brothers in his unit was a cook from Chicago and would keep all laughing all the time.

“Then you had this thing called, ‘I’m short,'” Brown said. “I’m getting short, which means I only got a few days left. You looked forward to getting short, especially after that second R&R. You know you are getting short.”

Born May 1, 1945, in La Grange, Texas, before ending up in Los Angeles to be closer to his brother and sister, Brown was drafted Nov. 9, 1965.

“I never was attracted to the Army or going into the military,” he said. “When you get drafted at that time, you had to go down and sign up when you turn 18. It was against the law not to sign it. They called me. They drafted me along with everybody else.”

“I was a person and still am who wants to abide by the law,” Brown said. “When they say you have to go down and sign, I said, okay, where is the door. I am a citizen and this is a good country. You appreciate the country to the point where you want to do what they say to do.”

Brown was the only one of six boys in his family to serve. He said the draft was not in force when his older and younger brothers were of age.

Brown went to basic training at Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Polk, Louisiana, for advanced infantry training. 

He was then sent back to Fort Hood.

“Even though I was born and raised in Texas, Fort Hood was like around 200 miles from where I was born and raised,” Brown said. “It was kind of like sitting on the edge of the Texas desert. I wasn’t used to that.”

“They had a little town outside the gate called Killeen,” Brown said. “The only thing they had there was tattoo shops, one movie and prostitutes. You had your pick. I got very bored and I want to say depressed from being there and nowhere else to go.”

“I went to my sergeant and I told him, ‘Sarge, I got to go out. This is not working for me.'”

“He said, ‘Brown, the only place where you can go that we are giving transfers to is Vietnam,'” Brown said. “I said, ‘Okay, where are the papers for me to sign?’ That is how I ended up in Vietnam.”

Brown said about 90 days before he got out of Vietnam in November 1967, he was given an opportunity for a promotion if he chose to re-enlist.

“I gave him a nod, he gave me the E5, but when he came back with the papers to sign, I told him that I had slept with my M14 long enough,” Brown said.

About two months after he left, the Army base he was in was hit during the Tet Offensive and destroyed, leaving few alive.

After leaving Vietnam, Brown went to back to his Watts (a Los Angeles neighborhood) home he had lived in before leaving to serve.

To his dismay, he had to continue to sleep with his M14 due to rampant gang activity, specifically the Crips and the Bloods.

“When is going to stop?” Brown said.

Brown said when he looks at young men today killing each other, he is hurt.

“Is this what we fought for?” he said. “We went through all these civil rights movements and marching. Is this what we did that for?”

“Hey, man, I had to miss something, but this is not it. This is not what we did all this for,” Brown continued. “The military is constantly out there busting their butts to keep us safe. Hey, man. You don’t appreciate that? You don’t appreciate nothing. Come on, man?”

Brown said when he got back home from Vietnam, he did not encounter protests like many of his brothers in combat did.

“I am glad that I was able to serve and be one of the people who can say, “Okay, I did my part. I did my part and what they asked me to do,” Brown said.

Now that he’s out of the service, Brown does demolition work occasionally and belongs to the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter on Amelia Street.

Brown was able to graduate from South Carolina State University May 6 with a degree in drama.

Brown has been married to Helen for 46 years. The couple has two children between the two of them. He ended up in South Carolina. Helen’s family is from Santee.

77-year-old Orangeburg man graduates from SCSU

In his spare time, Brown enjoys fishing.

“I can fish every day of the year if I had a chance,” he said.

#lee-rev-content { margin:0 -5px; } #lee-rev-content h3 { font-family: inherit!important; font-weight: 700!important; border-left: 8px solid var(–lee-blox-link-color); text-indent: 7px; font-size: 24px!important; line-height: 24px; } #lee-rev-content .rc-provider { font-family: inherit!important; } #lee-rev-content h4 { line-height: 24px!important; font-family: “serif-ds”,Times,”Times New Roman”,serif!important; margin-top: 10px!important; } @media (max-width: 991px) { #lee-rev-content h3 { font-size: 18px!important; line-height: 18px; } } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article { clear: both; background-color: #fff; color: #222; background-position: bottom; background-repeat: no-repeat; padding: 15px 0 20px; margin-bottom: 40px; border-top: 4px solid rgba(0,0,0,.8); border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,.2); display: none; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article, #pu-email-form-daily-email-article p { font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, “Segoe UI”, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, “Apple Color Emoji”, “Segoe UI Emoji”, “Segoe UI Symbol”; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article h1 { font-size: 24px; margin: 15px 0 5px 0; font-family: “serif-ds”, Times, “Times New Roman”, serif; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .lead { margin-bottom: 5px; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .email-desc { font-size: 16px; line-height: 20px; margin-bottom: 5px; opacity: 0.7; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article form { padding: 10px 30px 5px 30px; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .disclaimer { opacity: 0.5; margin-bottom: 0; line-height: 100%; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .disclaimer a { color: #222; text-decoration: underline; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .email-hammer { border-bottom: 3px solid #222; opacity: .5; display: inline-block; padding: 0 10px 5px 10px; margin-bottom: -5px; font-size: 16px; } @media (max-width: 991px) { #pu-email-form-daily-email-article form { padding: 10px 0 5px 0; } }

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>