(WVNS) – During the Vietnam War, Beckley native Bill Brown saw death and destruction, serving several tours as an Engineer for a land clearing company.
“To start with I pulled three tours in Vietnam,” Brown said. “I was there in 1965 and 66. I got another ITT from Germany back to Vietnam in 1968- 69. I came back to Fort Bragg, NC and I was there for 10 months and they sent me back to Vietnam again.”
During his time in Vietnam Brown led troops into some of the most dangerous war zones, clearing a path for American soldiers.
“Our mission was to destroy jungle,” Brown said. “We destroyed 165,000 acres over a period of time over there. We had a lot of casualties, our casualties were abnormal. We were there before the infantry got there.”
Being in constant danger, Brown earned some of the highest honors in the Army, making him one of the most decorated Vietnam veterans in West Virginia. He was awarded a Silver Star, four Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
“I got the first one on the first day of June in 1970,” Brown said. “I was hit with rocket fire, which is just shrapnel, in Cambodia. Then on the 15th day of March in 1971 in Xulanlock, Vietnam I got with with an 82 moarter in both legs.”
That injury happened just hours before Brown was supposed to leave Vietnam.
“I told them, ‘Tuesday morning I’m going back regardless.’ I got hit Monday night, twenty minutes till seven,” Brown said. “My replacement had just been in country since Friday. He got hit the same time that I did. He was killed.”
Brown’s quick thinking is what possibly saved his life. Seconds after he was hit, a split second decision stopped the bleeding.
“When I got hit, I thought I had my right leg blown off,” Brown said. “I took my belt off and tied it around my thigh. I remember I still had my boot on and every eyelet in my boot was busted. Of course, this leg here was pointed back the other way. But this one was broken 17 places below the knee and this one was crushed.”
Brown suffered for more than four decades, wearing braces on both legs. But after 43 years, his right leg was amputated from injuries he received that day in Vietnam.
He said he able to walk comfortably again after receiving his prosthetic leg.
Brown said he’s not an American hero but the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice are the ones who claim the title of “hero.”
“I guess I stop and think about my peers who aren’t fortunate enough to be here with us today,” Brown said. “They’re buried underneath that flag. It means something to me.”