General, how did you get that name? Is it a nickname?
I’m a junior — my father never did one day in the military, but I did. That’s my name on my birth certificate. I’m a Vietnam vet, ’69-’70.
Did the drill sergeants give you any flack for that name?
Oh, quite a bit. It was quite humorous. At certain times the name stuck out like a sore thumb. About the second or third week they made me a squad leader. They relieved the first guy of his duties because he wasn’t doing as he should to carry out the orders. The drill sergeant said since your name is “General,” we’re going to see how much of a general you can be and take over the squad. I kind of like, got the guys in order.
What rank did you leave the service?
Specialist fourth class.
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So you were Spc. 4 General Brown?
Did any officers ever joke with you about your name?
There was an incident when I was in Georgia. I’m left-handed, so naturally left-handed people do things differently than right-handed people. The officer performed an inspection of my footlocker, my shoes, my bunk. Captain Cheeks called me front and center and said, “Soldier, you have a very good foot locker, but one thing is wrong — your clothes are backwards.” Then he proceeded to look at my nametag, and looked at me, looked at my name tag a second time, and said, “Who in the hell gave you a name of General? You might be a general in name, but I’m a captain, and in the future soldier, turn your clothes around the other way, but otherwise, everything’s A-OK.”
What was your military occupation specialty in Vietnam?
I was a supply clerk and I was attached to the Big Red 1 (U.S. Army Unit) as they were deactivated. The first six months I was in Long Bin as a clerk. I pulled guard duty every third to fourth day. Once I left there I got attached to the Big Red 1 and traveled throughout South Vietnam.
You got shot at, I’d imagine?
Oh, yeah. We had no guard perimeter, we were about 150 yards from the chopper pad. We’d get incoming and ground attacks. It was nothing to go in a convoy and see bodies strewn out in rice paddies and fields. We took in the supplies for shipment back to the United States for the pullout.
Veterans Day is coming up on us. You’re active in the Disabled American Veterans?
Yes, DAV Louis P. Proy Chapter 20. I’m in the Honor Guard. We serve at ex-military/veterans’ funerals. We do a 21-gun salute. We fold the flag and present it to the family.
What’s that like? What do you think while you’re performing the ceremony?
To me it’s a great feeling to honor someone who’s paved the way for me. I look forward to pave the way for the younger vets who are coming through now. We give solace to the families in words and deeds. They feel relieved to a degree that their loved one has been laid to rest after their suffering and we still recognize them and not be forgotten. We say, “No soldier left behind, no soldier should be forgotten.” This is our all and all.
Did you have any friends who didn’t make it back from Vietnam?
Prior to the week I deployed, I buried a friend who was killed. After coming home I buried quite a few of my comrades. As a child, I didn’t watch war movies, but once I got into the service, I wanted to go to Vietnam. Alvin Blanton, they shipped his body back, I went to his funeral, and soon after that I was on my way there. His brother was Calvin, they were twins. (Calvin survived his service).
General, I heard you have some unusual hobbies?
As you can see in my living room, plants are one hobby. Woodworking is another and photography; I collect newspaper articles, I have two parakeets and a parrot. I also collect owl figurines. I have about 300 of them. I have one that came from the Bahamas, one from shells, T-shirts with owls and two owl cookie jars.
Do you have any children and family?
Sabrina Brown and Kasandra Knight and five grandkids. Both of my parents are deceased, I’m the second of six. My dad’s name was General. I have two military brothers.
Chronicle photographer Chuck Humel shines the spotlight on the people of Lorain County each week. Know someone worthy of 15 Minutes? E-mail email@example.com.