Photos: from left, James E. Brown; Harold W. Brown; Elmer E. Brown; and Donald J. Brown.
My three brothers and I cover four branches of service: the Marines, Air Force, Navy and Army. But it didn't start with us. The Brown family has served our country a long time.
Our great-grandfather John Jacob Brown served in the Army during the Civil War from 1863-1864. Our grandfather Isaac Williamson Brown served in the 3rd Infantry Division during the Spanish American War from 1898-1901.
Our father, Elmer Elsworth Brown, enlisted in the Army during World War I. He said he was in the Quartermaster Corps, and was aboard a ship heading to France when the Armistice was signed. His ship was turned around, and he was discharged on March 4, 1919.
He and his comrades built the American Legion Post 130 building in Midland Park, N.J., with their bare hands. They carried, set and mortared all the cinder blocks for the building, which still stands. In 1952, Elmer became post commander there and was a life member until his death in 1979. All four sons were members of that post.
His eldest son, James Elmer Brown, enlisted in the Marines on Aug. 3, 1945. He completed basic training at Parris Island, and was slated for the first wave to hit Japan. President Harry Truman saved his life by approving the two bombs that ended World War II. When superiors realized he could type, he was sent to work as a clerk typist at Quantico, Va., mustering out Marines until he was discharged on Aug. 24, 1946.
Afterward, he joined the Harry B. Doremus Legion Post 55 in Hackensack, N.J., and performed with the Senior Drum and Bugle Corps. They became national champions in 1947. James was also a state drum champion two years back-to-back, 1947 and 1948.
He worked as an office boy at an insurance company and worked his way up to owning his own agency. That's a Marine for you. He's now retired.
My brother Allan Kenneth Brown enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Jan. 6, 1956, and was stationed in North Carolina working in the commissary for a year and a half. When it came time for sea duty, he was assigned to the Brunswick, Maine Naval Air Station. He was deployed to Malta for a year then Barcelona, Spain, and also Venice, Italy. He was discharged in 1959. He worked in the food industry and as a front-end manager for Shop Rite until he retired.
Donald enlisted in the Army on July 15, 1959. He took basic at Ft. Dix, N.J., plus advanced infantry training. We was sent to Ft. Devins, Mass., and served on the air rifle team. He was shipped to Korea by way of Japan. He was assigned to the 17th Infantry, 7th Division. He was then assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, "the Buff Strap," the very same outfit our great-grandfather Isaac had been assigned to more than 60 years before. Donald was a head machine gunner on the 38th parallel. He was discharged on May 1, 1961.
Formerly a carpenter and business owner in Vernon, N.J., he's a life member of the Legion and the VFW. He commands Post 178 in Murrels Inlet, S.C. He's now semi-retired.
I enlisted in the Air Force on Dec. 29, 1950. I took basic at Lackland Air Force Base before serving as an aircraft and engine mechanic in Sonthofen, Germany, and Warrington, England. In 1952 I was shipped to Leon, France, where I worked on B-26 bombers. Next I served in Neubeburg, Germany. I was discharged in July 1954 at Camp Kilmer, N.J.
I joined the Midland Park Police Department in 1957 and retired as second-in-command in 1982. My last 15 years as a policeman, I was part of the ambulance corps, now known as EMTs. I moved to Florida and worked in the crime prevention section of a county sheriff's department. I'm now retired.
Originally a member of Post 130, I’m now a member of Post 178 in support of Donald.
Now a new generation is committed to service. James' grandson Thomas Richard Johnston graduated from West Point in 2012, attended ranger school in Georgia and is training in Italy.
I'm proud of what my family has accomplished over the years and if another family can boast four men in each branch as ours can, our hats are off to them and God bless.
(If Walter C. Gray from Alabama should read this, please contact me at (941) 794-0803.)