Veteran’s stolen medals replaced

U.S. Representative Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) (left) presented local Vietnam War veteran Joseph Brown (right) with the Combat Infantryman Badge, while Brown holds his Purple Heart medal, two of which he received while serving during the war. The medals were presented Monday morning at Brown’s Clark Avenue home, replacing the decorations that were lost after someone broke into Brown’s home this past Dec. 28. (Photo by Steve Rappach)

WELLSVILLE — In December, Joseph L. Brown, a local Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War, experienced heartbreak and sadness after losing medals awarded him for his service.

But thanks to the help of U.S. Representative Bill Johnson, Brown’s stolen medals — the result of a robbery in his home — have been replenished.

Johnson (R-Marietta) made a visit to Brown’s Clark Avenue home Monday morning and presented him with the majority of those medals, serving as replacements of those stolen.

The new medals — made possible through the congressman’s arrangement with the National Personnel Records Center — include the Purple Heart, Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, the Marksman Badge and the Auto Rifle, Machine Gun and Rifle Bars.

The Silver Star was not received in time for Johnson’s visit, but he said he will return to Brown’s home to present it once it’s available.

Fighting back tears, Brown expressed joy and satisfaction knowing that he again has the medals and decorations to show for his service during the war.

“It means everything,” Brown said. “It means I’ve got my life back.”

Prior to presenting the medals, Johnson met with Brown in the living room and thanked him for his service and also reminded him of the importance of the soldiers who battled during a tumultuous time in America.

“That’s why our nation’s great,” Johnson said. “Your generation taught our country a lot.”

Johnson, who served in the U.S. Air Force starting in 1973, recognized the struggle Brown’s fellow soldiers experienced.

“I was in during the Vietnam era, but because I joined at the tail end of ’73, long after some of you guys were there,” Johnson said. “So I never sat foot on the soil, but I had a lot of friends who did, I lost a cousin there in 1968 in the Tet Offensive.”

Brown, a Salineville native and Southern Local graduate who served in the first cavalry air mobile, talked about his experience during the Vietnam War.

“I was a spaceless four, qualified in the all-wide weaponry and machine gun,” Brown said. “The Silver Star that I got, I went out and saved my friend and I had to kill people to get to him, and I brought him back. They shot me while I had brought him back, and then two guys took him through the center. And then I layed down behind an anthill, and I kept them back until the other company can come in, but I had only a handful of shells and I saved my friends.”

Brown mentioned that the medals reminded him of his fellow soldiers and friends whom he served with during the war. He mentioned the comradery he shared with the troops in his squadron.

“They reminded me of my friends, what we stood for, and the closeness we had, we never left one another behind,” Brown said. “No matter how bad it got, hand-to-hand combat, they stood right there toe-to-toe. I can never say less about them. I think the world about them.”

After the war, Brown worked at a Ford plant for more than 32 years and provided proof to people who questioned him of his service.

However those medals, which he said reminded him of his friends, were taken Dec. 29 when someone broke into Brown’s home and stole the medals along with a television and $80 in coins.

Brown said that, at this point, he has forgiven whoever stole the medals, and has said that he doesn’t want to live with any animosity.

“I don’t hate the person that stole them, I just want everybody to know that, I’ve forgiven,” Brown said. “Hatred is a terrible thing and I don’t want to do any hatred no more.”

Having served in the military, Johnson said he was happy to be able to help out Brown, as he mentioned that their goal is to serve veterans nationwide regardless of issues they experience.

“We do a lot of constituent work,” Johnson said. “We have 721,000 people in our district, over 50,000 veterans in our district, and I can tell you the lion’s share of our constituent services workload is servicing the veterans. Whether it’s problems with the VA, problems with their Social Security or Medicare, but nothing rivals in terms of satisfaction the ability to reclaim the honor that a veteran has laid out on the battlefield like Joe has, so it means an awful lot to us. I consider what I did a very small thing compared to what Joe did to earn those medals, but I was very happy to be of some help.”

Brown also pointed out the importance of showing gratitude of supporting veterans, noting how meaningful it is to those, like Brown, who fought in combat.

“I think everyone can walk up and shake the hand of a veteran that comes home,” Brown said. “It’s so important because that guy knows that the country cares.”

Brown further emphasized the importance through his wife, who has passed away, and now through his niece, and again offered gratitude to those who thank veterans nationwide.

“When I came home, people spit on me, and I’ve wanted to hurt people really bad,” Brown said. “I met my wife, she was a Christian. She passed away now, and her niece, I’ve pretty much adopted her now, and she’s like a daughter to me, because, of Agent Orange, I couldn’t have no kids. We had five miscarriages. So I got her, she’s very important in my life and I just want people to realize a shake of a hand don’t cost nothing but it sure means a lot to the soldiers that come home. I want to thank the younger generation that does that.”