Saturday, April 21, 2007

Harrison 'Duck' Brown laid to rest

Hundreds of mourners packed the Nazaree Full Gospel Church in Mobile on Friday to pay tribute to 31-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Harrison "Duck" Brown of Prichard, who died in combat on Easter Sunday in Iraq.

Led by the church's hand-clapping, swaying choir that offered up heartfelt gospel music, many of those in the audience who came to grieve instead found themselves celebrating Brown's life.

Although the sergeant earned an array of medals during his three tours of duty in Iraq, including the Bronze Star with "V" device for valor, his uncle Hezekiah Brown told the audience, "He was a gentle giant who didn't want to hurt anybody."

Brown was a standout wide receiver on the Blount High School football team from 1991 to 1994, and also played on the Prichard school's baseball and basketball teams. He also won a scholarship to play on the football team at Tuskegee University but left school after his freshman year to better provide for his family by joining the Army.

Ben Harris, the football coach at Blount, told the audience, "He died a hero. He died for us over there."

Harris called Brown a great player who always had a smile on his face. The coach said Brown was much loved by those who knew him, "but God loves him best."

Among Brown's former football teammates at Blount who attended the funeral was Clarence Giles, 31, who called Brown "a real good person -- real down-to-earth."

The eulogy was delivered by the Rev. Ralph Huling, the pastor of the St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga. The soldier attended his church while based at nearby Fort Benning, Ga. Huling said of Brown, "He lived as a hero and he died as a hero."

Further, he said, "He was a family man -- a man who loved Jesus."

Also present were a couple of soldiers who were based at Fort Benning with Brown. One of them was Staff Sgt. Christopher Barr, who said he served with Brown in Iraq during a previous deployment and called him "a quiet, dedicated man who always put his soldiers' needs first before his own needs."

During the service at the church, Prichard Mayor Ron Davis announced that he and the City Council are going to name a street in Prichard after the soldier, which stirred an eruption of applause from the audience.

The long procession of cars from the church on the West Interstate 65 Service Road to the National Cemetery on Virginia Street had a law enforcement escort and was also accompanied by about 100 or so motorcyclists who called themselves the "Patriot Guard." A spokesman for the group said the motorcyclists were veterans from several Southeastern states who came to pay tribute to the fallen soldier and his family.

Among those in the funeral procession was 88-year-old retired Army Sgt. Maj. Howard Bakeman, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He was driving his 1991 Cadillac sporting American flags flying on each side of the car.

Bakeman wore his dress Army uniform with 11 gold hash marks on his sleeves, which represent his more than 34 years of military service. He tries to attend all such funerals for area soldiers killed in action.

Among the reasons Bakeman was motivated to take part: His great-grandson, 19-year-old soldier Paul J. Bueche of Daphne, was killed in Iraq on Oct. 21, 2003, when a helicopter tire he was inflating exploded. Bakeman said he goes to these funerals to pay tribute to fallen soldiers and to offer condolences to the families.

"What the hell else can I do?" Bakeman, a Pearl Harbor survivor, asked.

From the Press Register

Related Link:
Harrison "Duck" Brown dies after 'contact with enemy forces using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire'