The Medal of Honor symbolizes the ideals of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity and is the highest award presented for military valor in action. Those recipients have shown bravery in combat, going above and beyond the call of duty, risking – and often sacrificing – their lives for the welfare of others.
First introduced for the Department of the Navy in 1861, the Medal of Honor would be created for the Department of the Army’s Medal of Honor in 1862. The Department of the Air Force, which originally used the same Medal as the Department of the Army, introduced their own Medal of Honor in 1965. Since its inception during the U.S. Civil War, more than 3500 recipients have been honored with the Medal of Honor.
This is the story of a Medal of Honor recipient.
The sun had barely peaked above the distance mountains when I arrived in Mahaffey. Taking Route 38 east from town, I turned onto Banner Ridge Road and saw the cemetery immediately on the right side of the road. I entered the cemetery, which overlooks Route 38, and followed the roadway to the turnaround. From where I parked, I could see the monument for the Brown family a short distance away.
I stepped out of the vehicle and carefully walked along the dirt roadway to the family plot. As I approached, I could see the American flag standing guard over a simple stone and carefully walked over to it. The larger memorial stood next to the dirt road and is marked with the name Melvin Brown, giving his birth and death dates, and that he was killed in the Korean Conflict. In the grass in front of the memorial is a simple stone remembering his rank and notes he had received the Medal of Honor for his bravery.
Melvin Louis Brown was born February 2, 1931, one of ten children to Edward and Rhoda Brown. He dropped out of high school during his sophomore year and enlisted in the U.S. Army in October 1948 at the age of seventeen. Brown was sent overseas to Japan, where he was stationed until July 1950 when he was sent to Korea as a private in Company D of the 8th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.
On September 4, 1950, Brown’s platoon was taking a hill near Kasan, when they came under fire. Brown took position near a wall and continued firing upon the enemy until he ran out of ammunition. When he ran out of ammunition, Brown began throwing grenades over the wall until they too were exhausted. With no other weapon available, he drew his entrenching tool and struck at any of the enemy who peered over the wall. His actions would cost Brown his life, but his bravery inspired his fellow soldiers and they successfully held the position. Brown was just nineteen at the time of his death.
On January 9, 1951, President Truman presented Brown’s Medal of Honor to his father, Edward, in a ceremony at the White House. The citation for Melvin Brown’s Medal of Honor reads: “Pfc. Brown, Company D, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. While his platoon was securing Hill 755 (the Walled City), the enemy, using heavy automatic weapons and small arms, counterattacked. Taking a position on a 50-foot-high wall he delivered heavy rifle fire on the enemy. His ammunition was soon expended and although wounded, he remained at his post and threw his few grenades into the attackers, causing many casualties. When his supply of grenades was exhausted his comrades from nearby foxholes tossed others to him and he left his position, braving a hail of fire, to retrieve and throw them at the enemy. The attackers continued to assault his position and Pfc. Brown, weaponless, drew his entrenching tool from his pack and calmly waited until they one by one peered over the wall, delivering each a crushing blow upon the head. Knocking 10 or 12 enemy from the wall, his daring action so inspired his platoon that they repelled the attack and held their position. Pfc. Brown’s extraordinary heroism, gallantry, and intrepidity reflect the highest credit upon himself and was in keeping with the honored traditions of the military service. Reportedly missing in action and officially killed in action, September 5, 1950.”
Brown’s body was returned to state side in October 1951 and officially escorted home by his older brother, who had finished a fourteen-month tour in Korea. On November 6, 1951, Brown was buried with full honors on the hillside east of his hometown – from the spot where he eternally slumbers, his boyhood home could be seen.
Melvin Brown would be also remembered by having a number of locations named in his honor: a Korean War Memorial at Fort Hood, Texas; the parade ground at Camp Howze, South Korea; a building at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; a maintenance facility at Camp Carroll, South Korea; and the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Mahaffey.
I finished paying my respects to the young man, remembering the bravery he showed in the face of the enemy. I slowly left the silent hillside leaving Melvin Brown to slumber beneath the American flag. A flag which stood watch over the grave of the young man whose brave actions were recognized by the Medal of Honor.