Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
When 1st Lt. James Brown returned home from the battlefields of World War II, he jumped back into civilian life. He married his wife Emma, and they started a family. He worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and later became vice president of Southwestern Life Insurance Company. And somehow as the years flew by, the accolades and honors he earned fighting for his country failed to materialize.
During the Irving City Council meeting on Feb. 7, 68 years after he retired from the U.S. Army, a 95-year-old James Brown was honored by a grateful nation and a grateful community.
U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant presented Brown with the Purple Heart Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge-1st Award, Expert Badge with Carbine Bar, and Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.
After the presentation was complete, Marchant explained how his staff member, John Hayes, had discovered information in Brown’s military records that indicated he also was entitled to the Bronze Star Medal. Hayes made another inquiry to the Department of the Army. Upon review, the Army confirmed that Brown’s records entitled him to a Bronze Star Medal.
Brown earned the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement during active ground combat against the enemy on Dec. 11, 1944. On that day, Brown was wounded in an artillery barrage on the banks of the Saar River on the border of France and Germany, resulting in amputation of his left arm.
The Bronze Star Medal awarded to Brown on Nov. 12, 2012, 67 years after he sacrificed so much for his country. This final honor was kept secret from Mr. Brown until its formal presentation during the meeting.
“I think it is very nice of Mr. Marchant to get all the medals together for me,” Brown said. “I am delighted he has done that, because when you come back, you don’t really check all the medals that you might be eligible for.
“One of the main things I’ve been remembering from World War II was the night I was wounded. I lost my left arm and two fingers off my right hand. I made up my mind at that time that this had happened and it was done; I needed to make the best of it and go on with my life. That is the philosophy I have followed all the way through just doing the best I can. There are a few things you just can’t do, but you’d be surprised how much you can do even though you only have one arm.
“I appreciate the medals. It was my privilege and honor to serve my country in World War II.”
Emma stood beside her husband throughout the presentation ceremony.
“I think the presentation of these medals is a wonderful thing,” Emma said. “He deserves it. I am very proud of him.
“We are very fortunate, because he is still here to enjoy all of this. It means a lot to both of us. I think all the World War II guys need it. They are going so fast, and it is going to get away from us.”
A visit to the district office of U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant initiated the process of Brown receiving his military honors. Last October, Brown participated in the Veterans’ History Project, a program established by the Library of Congress to collect video recordings of veterans sharing their memories of their military service. While at the office, Brown also filled out the paperwork to inquire about his entitlements to military awards and decorations.
If you are a veteran or if you know a veteran who might benefit from these programs, please contact John Hayes with Rep. Kenny Marchant’s office by calling 972-556-0162.
Contains information provided by the City of Irving.