On this Monday, Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, I have chosen to honor Chief Master Sergeant Thomas Bryant Brown, born July 8, 1935 in Texarkana, Arkansas to Barron Scott Brown and Grace May Bryant Brown. Tom’s mother, who had already had a daughter, Barbra Ann and a son, John, died at his birth. His father passed away three years later. Tom was raised by his grandparents, Scott Preston Brown and Leah Templeton Brown in Doddridge, Arkansas who were already getting on years, him seventy and her fifty-nine years.
Tom attended school in Bright Star, Arkansas graduating in 1953. He played basketball and was vice president of the senior class. In a booklet for the fifty year reunion he said his fondest memory of Bright Star High School was “When Cecil Morris (the superintendent) gave me my diploma. I had doubts about getting one.”
Tom enlisted in the Air Force in 1954 and served twenty-four years before retiring. The bases he was stationed at were Schilling AFB in Salina, Kansas; Little Rock AFB in Little Rock, Arkansas; Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota; Altus AFB in Oklahoma; Anderson AFB on Guam and Blythville AFB in Blythville, Arkansas.
While stationed at Schilling he met Wanda June McDaneld at the First Free United Methodist Church. They were married on May 26, 1957.
Tom began his career as an aircraft technician, more commonly known as a mechanic. He worked on B47s until the B52 made its debut and later the KC 135. He became a crew chief having as many as many as twenty planes to insure were mechanically sound for flight. His crew followed the planes wherever their missions went. While a crew chief he spent three tours in Thailand and more than a couple on Guam. On another occasion when a plane had problems in Viet Nam he and his crew had to fly in, repair the plane and fly out of the area. He later said that was the scariest day he spent in service.
I am not sure if this photo depicts receiving a medal as it is not marked, however as you can see in the photo below of his uniform jacket, he received the Bronze Star; the USAF Outstanding Unit Award; the AF Good Conduct Medal; the Commendation Ribbon; the Army Good Conduct Medal/Ribbon; the National Defense Service Medal; the Viet Nam Service Ribbon; the USAF Longevity Service Ribbon; the USAF NCO Professional Military Educate Graduate; and the Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Ribbon.
Here’s another photo of Tom (second from the right on bottom row) with other unidentified service members:
Tom and Wanda had three girls, namely Tammy Jo, Sandra June, Barbra Leigh and one son, Scott Preston (who also happens to be my son-in-law) named for Tom’s grandfather. A lot of the time while Tom was in service, Wanda was left in the states to raise the children and have as much as possible a normal family life without the children’s dad. Many times I would tell Tom what a fine family he had raised to which his standard answer was, “Well you better praise Wanda; I was always gone”.
Following his retirement the family moved to Jefferson, Texas to be near his uncle and aunt, Rabb and Ione Bryant, where he worked for the Marion County Tax Assessor’s office. He was a member of the Retired Enlisted Association and annually made a trip to Branson, Missouri to attend the reunion of the 44th Bombardment Wing. Tom loved to fish and quite often would take enough fish to fry for all those in attendance, not to mention epic sized fish fries for Bright Star reunions and family get togethers.
He was a loving husband and father whose biggest smiles came while being with and doing for those he loved. Most of the time he wore an Air Force cap covering his red hair; all the time he had a kind word and a warm hug for you!
Thomas Bryant Brown passed away in Shreveport, Louisiana on August 17, 2011 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was buried with military honors at Old Foundry Cemetery, Lodi, Texas beside his wife of forty-two years, Wanda June McDaneld.