Our Week of Heroes concludes today with John Brownwood. But this will not be the end of our honoring ModernJeeper Veterans. We will continue to share stories throughout the year. If you have a story to share, or have a Veteran we should interview, please email us at ModernJeeper@Yahoo.com.
– The Editors
John is an offroader, wounded vet and has that classic “crusty old war era” look, with a salty gray beard, slight limp in the cold mornings, t-shirts that stand out in a crowd, with eyes that have seen hard times. However, if you know him, you know that he is most known for his smiles and laughing sense of humor rather than snivels about his wounds, worries, or disabilities. We respect that. Did we also mention that he is one awesome ModernJeeper who lives the passion of jeeping, and is doing it while he can.
This is his story.
John Brownwood, Disabled Vet; Bayonet Victim; Hero
So, my story starts in the spring of ‘65… but fast forward and some background first.
My dad was a WW II paratrooper and my brothers were all in Army, Air Force and Navy. It was in my genes. My service began in the Army and ran from 1984 -1987. I saw the sights of Ft Benning, Georgia and the Harmony Church for basic training.
I became an Antitank Crewman TOW gunner (MOS 11H) and shipped off to Panama and then Korea, with various assignments and stops state side like Ft Polk, LA, back to Ft. Benning, and Ft Ord, California.
Panama Canal Zone…
Being sent to Panama at the time was kinda scary as anyone could imagine. The hard part with Noriega, the scandals, drug cartels, etc. was mostly over but there was still a need for us to guard military bases and such. The US was not going to give up the Panama Canal. It was calm for us most of the time until one day someone with a rifle started popping off rounds at us and we had 2 injured and 1 dead all within a few feet of me. This was hard to deal with at a young age in what was not really a war zone to begin with.
Bayoneted in Korea…
Then I was off to Korea to Pusan AFB for perimeter guard duty where the “MiGs” defected to in 1986. All the friendly south Koreans were headed north to safety in the DMZ.
We were stationed at Camp Paige in Chun Chon city, Korea. While training with Korean soldiers, one of them “accidentally” stuck me with a bayonet in the leg which caused a severe infection and I was real close to losing my leg.
I healed up from that ugly leg wound with plenty of hospital time eating USAF food and realized what I had been missing! So, I decided to leave the Army and join the USAF for a career move.
Into the wild blue yonder…
I left the Army in 1987 and joined the US Air Force to be a Firefighter but got sent to Jet Engine Mechanic school for B52 bombers. They sent me to Castle AFB and was on the TDY jet engine repair crew. My service time took me all over the place to work on B52’s including: Barksdale, Minot, Saudi Arabia, Diego Garcia, Ramstein and wherever they needed us to go.
I did a stint at Fire Support School in Chanute AFB. IL, and was just getting a good start when they changed me to Jet Engine Mechanic since I had a high mechanical score. I went to work on B52s and KC135s and got to travel extensively.
Up close and personal with B52’s…
We had a group of prior service jet mechanics on this TDY to fix planes. We had just left Saudi headed to Diego Garcia the day before a tactical ballistic Scud missile hit the USAF barracks where I lost several friends that night…a very sad day. You can’t help but think: It could have been me.
Once we made it to Diego Garcia, I was putting a part on a B52 while on a scissor lift. The ground person lift operator accidentally lifted me into a hot engine and kinda squished me a bit which hurt my back. I was young and tough so no worries; however, that became the worst time of my life.
I hurt so bad I could not hardly move or breath. Spent a month in traction, and the next several years on light duty and since I was on a “Nuke Op” at the time, they would not give me anything for pain other than Motrin — trying to keep my head clear. Ha! Like that did much good.
Off to the Reserves…
Eventually in 1995 they said I was done and put me on Active Reserve for three years until a military doctor finally said “oh, you’re really hurt.” I left active duty and headed to the VA for help. The VA said you can’t be hurt that bad and started the “diagnostic” process all over again. Typical bureaucracy.
This had me worried as I had heard so many bad stories about VA issues. I got a good job through the military and continued to follow up with VA where in 2014 a specialist said my back was broken and healed bad due to wrong care given, cortisone shots. The doc also pointed out that the years of Motrin were about to kill my liver and kidneys. Besides that, my leg was permanently damaged from the infection left over from the bayonet wound and my bones were brittle.
The doc wrote the report and granted me my disability and here we are.
The worst parts I guess was leaving the wife and kids behind to go abroad and never knowing your fate, or when you’d be home, all the while missing the best times with your kids growing up without you.
I treasure the lifetime friends that were made, some we (Penny, my wife and I) still visit with. The training I received in the military launched me into new adventures I hold near and dear.
There is always a but…
Buddies, lifelong friends, and regular vets face challenges the general public usually can’t understand. We have had 4 friends/vets commit suicide in the last 10 years. Always terribly sad to see. So, as a Hero Offroad guy and a “Mission 22” Ambassador (united with others in the prevention of veteran suicide) it’s my personal mission/goal now to keep it from happening anymore. I feel the wife and I have stopped 2 already just by being there and interrupting the moment.
No more military; just a ModernJeeper…
My final goodbye to the military was in 1998 after injuries from Army and USAF caught up with me. 100% disabled now and travel as a ModernJeeper to get with 4×4 clubs to motivate their local vets and get them out on the trails at the same time looking for members for Warrior Jeeps, Combat Crawlers, and continuing to help Hero Offroad.
The ModernJeeper family thanks and salutes you!