Billy and Bridie Brown with a photo of Harry
By Evan Short
An Irishman who volunteered to serve two tours of duty in Vietnam with the United States Marine Crops even, though even could have avoided service, has been buried with full military honors in New Jersey after passing away aged 72.
Harry Brown was born in the Ardoyne area of Belfast and worked on the docks with his father and brother.
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But a lifelong ambition to join the military saw him immigrate to the United States where he settled in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Harry’s brother, Billy, who lives in Belfast, said despite settling in the U.S. Harry never forgot his roots and was a regular visitor home.
“We all grew up in Ardoyne and Harry, like the rest of the boys, went to work on the docks with the rest of us.
“But he always wanted to go away and my sister Ann had already emigrated so he went over to her.”
Harry joined the Marines to get his U.S. citizenship, but he was soon to find himself a long way from his native place, and his adopted new home.
“He was only ten months in the Marines when he was told they were going to war.
“His commanding officer told him he didn’t have to because he was still an Irish citizen, but he told him he wanted to go and volunteered. He ended up doing two tours of duty in Vietnam, which very few people did.”
The war was to change Harry.
“When he came back he struggled with the fact so many of his friends had died,” said Billy.
“He received many medals but the one he treasured above them all was the Purple Heart that was given to him for being wounded in action.
“He didn’t really talk about Vietnam except for one story when he spoke about being on patrol and hearing a baby crying in a paddy field.
“His friend handed Harry his rifle and went to check on the baby but the cot the child was in had been booby-trapped and his friend was killed along with the baby. He always struggled with civilian life when he came back and started to drink heavily.
“It was only though the help of his family and Alcoholics Anonymous that he was able to turn his life around. He attended AA regularly and even when he came home to Belfast he would go to local meetings.”
Harry suffered from a medical condition that affected his lungs which he picked up while in Vietnam.
“He was hospitalized on March 16 and passed away two days later with his children Kelly, Lisa and Sean by his side.
“He was predeceased by his wife, Eileen. He had looked after her for fifteen years after she suffered a stroke.
Billy said that although Harry lived in the U.S. they had remained very close.
“I was able to speak to him on the phone on St. Patrick’s Day and have a few words.
“I told him to look after himself, and that I loved him.”