– August 6, 2011
For the second week in a row, an Air Force Special Operations Command pararescueman was laid to rest here.
Tech. Sgt. John Brown, with family roots in Arkansas and Florida, had his funeral Aug. 30 and was buried one week after his teammate and friend Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe.
Both Brown and Zerbe were on a CH-47 helicopter Aug. 6 when it crashed in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan. Another teammate who died, Air Force combat controller Staff Sgt. Andy Harvell, will be buried at a later date. They were among 25 U.S. Special Operations Command operators who died in the crash, which also took the lives of five U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, seven Afghan commandos and one civilian interpreter.
Brown’s funeral was attended by friends and family as well as many senior leaders and past teammates who came to show their respect. Former Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel and AFSOC command chief, Chief Master Sgt. William Turner, were all in attendance.
A former teammate and good friend said John was one of a kind, who couldn’t be replaced or summed up in a speech. He said to fully remember and honor John is by how they live their lives from this point.
Many who grew up with John remembered him as a dedicated, courageous family man who was an example for everyone and a man of character.
During a memorial service for Brown held Aug. 16, Brown’s youth pastor, Ray Fritz said, “One word that sums up John is kind. He was kind to a fault and would do anything for anyone.”
Nicknamed “the gentle giant,” Brown was 6 feet 2 inches tall. A former teammate of Brown’s said he was a big man, but his heart was even bigger. He said Brown had a belief in something higher and believed in a justness and goodness that would shine through. He said everyone in attendance could take away some life lessons from “big John Brown” to live harder, fight stronger and live better than the common man.
Just like his teammate Zerbe, Brown was a highly skilled pararescueman who was called upon everyday to save lives. One of Brown’s old team-leads said Brown practiced becoming excellent, and he was a larger than life person who went out of his way for others.
“He was a man who would not quit and only needed a family behind him and an enemy in front of him,” he said.
The 3rd United States Infantry “The Old Guard” led a procession through Arlington ceremony pulling Brown’s flag-draped casket on a caisson, led by a team of six white Lippizan horses. More than 100 of Brown’s teammates followed, marching in silence.
A missing-man formation of four A-10s from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Brown’s former base, broke the silence followed by three-rifle volleys, a flag-folding ceremony and the playing of Taps.
Each of Brown’s teammates and friends nailed a pararescue badge into the top of Brown’s casket signifying he will never be forgotten among his team.
“It’s times like this when we have the most questions about life and we have anger, confusion, bewilderment, despair and abject sorrow,” said the family’s pastor Wayne Dorsett. “But he says we have to believe there is a higher purpose and take comfort in friends and family.”
Brown is survived by wife Tabitha, his father Dan, his mother Elizabeth Newlun, and brothers Danny and Lucas.
Tabitha, Brown’s soul-mate by anyone who knew them, said she will forever miss him. They truly embodied a relationship of love and respect. As she drank a Guinness in his honor, Brown’s favorite drink, she said, “He is my best friend and the love of my life.”