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It was a warm sunny afternoon in Loma Linda California. Molly pulled her beat up white Buick up to Heritage Gardens Health Care Center driveway and parked her car. She walked into the building and looked around at people waiting on benches near a reception desk. She walked up to the information desk and asked which room a patient by the name of Flint W. Brown was located. The receptionist and attending nurse gave her a number and a direction for which hallway it was located. She said, “Thank you” and went to go find her Great Uncle’s room.

Molly walked up to the doorway and peeked inside. Scared of what she may find behind the door, she held back. Some of her relatives were gathered in the small room, which stunk of sickness and stale air. Her Aunt Pauline was over next to the bed, patting Flint, Brownie’s, head with a cool wash cloth. She was concerned and giving him any love and affection that she could. His mind was somewhere else though, and he paid her no attention while she touched his forehead and brushed his hand with hers.

Brownie was somewhere else, his life was flashing back and forward he had an unquiet mind, and tried to concentrate on his last memories as his body withered away, back to the stage of a baby before he passed to the other side.

Flashback:

It was May 1938, Mom, “I’ve decided to Join the Army, I will be able to help with sisters doctor’s bills now. I will be leaving to go to training in a month at Fort Bragg,” Brownie told her. Helen had grown up with Polio and his parents were struggling to support their sick daughter and couldn’t afford her care anymore. They had grown up together laughing, running and playing in the rural farmland of Rapid City, South Dakota. The medicine and doctors were over an hour away, and Helen started to suffer at a early age of 6. She was getting worse and starting early stages of paralysis in her legs. Brownie desperately wanted to see that she got the care she deserved and money to see good doctors before the polio took over her body. Brownie was 18 and freshly graduated High School, he was a smart, gentle man who knew no evil, His mother Olive and mysterious father Flint H. Brown were good Christian people who ran a cattle ranch.  A month went by and Flint kissed his mother’s cheek and got on the bus to go to Fort Bragg were he would be part of the 101st airborne division, the 506th parachute infantry regiment.

It was 1942, the parachute infantry was starting to disband, and Brownie was in a small town, St. C^ome-mont, France. His battalion had successfully fought off an enemy resistance as was getting ready to secure the town of St. Oedenrode. The paratroopers were hoping to leave to go back to their families soon, but there was still work to be done to help the other airborne division, the 502. While working with these other divisions, Brownie made friends and talked with other men who quickly left him the same.  Brownie thought, “I can’t take this anymore, every day I am meeting new people. I miss my family and my legs are getting weak from all the walking. He thought about Helen at home and her poor legs, how he wanted to make sure that she would always be able to use them, stop complaining, you have reason for this,” he told himself. He thought about his friend Jack, a hometown buddy that had gone with him to Fort Bragg and helped him through training. He hadn’t seen Jack in a while, though, because he was in the 502nd division. The next day, their Srgt leader called them in for a meeting in a nearby farm house they were staying in. “We have orders to secure St. Oedenrode, we will be leaving at midday tomorrow at 0700 hours.” Brownie was nervous. He didn’t want to continue but pushed himself to pack his bags and get ready for another journey to another place that was nothing like home. He thought about the nurse that he loved, and how he longed for her affection.

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It was 0700 hours the troops formulated and left out to St. Oedenrode. As they left they complained and begged each other for a cigarette, and traded stories about the lives they hoped would be waiting for them back home. The 506th approached the bridge near the Wilhelmina canal. Brownie started to get concerned for mines. He knew that these roads were heavily occupied by the enemy. All of a sudden the Srgt started to yell at the men. “Get down!” “Get low.” As Brownie approached the road with in the Jeep, they quickly veered off to the side of the road and heard an large explosion. Enemy fire ensued. He ran and hid behind a tree with a few other men. They watched and waiting trying to listen through the gunfire and aftermath while their ears rung from the explosion. The Bridge had blown up, Brownie looked around and heard men screaming, dust was everywhere. He was near blind and deaf but used his senses the best he could. He saw part of a jeep truck that was torn apart and pieces that flew near a ravine in the canal. He left the remaining battalion leaders and ran to see if anyone was still alive. He got to the jeep, a man was moaning and crying, Brownie looked around but the man that he heard was nowhere in the truck. The man continued his crying, Brownie walked around low to the ground hoping to find him. As he walked around the back hatch of the vehicle he found Jack, his hometown buddy stuck under the wheel of the bed of the truck. Jack cried, ”Brownie, you have to leave, they are opening fire. Get yourself out of here. Brownie refused. Jack, I got you man. I will try to lift the tire and you can wiggle free.” It’s no use, Jack replied, it’s got me pinned and I am going to die out here!” Brownie didn’t move. He knew what he must do to get Jack and it would put him at risk. He leaned his body against the bed of the truck pulling the tailgate with all his remaining strength. All of a sudden Jack screamed, “I’m free!” he pushed and pulled with his arms, clawing the ground and rolled out from underneath the tire. Brownie ducked for cover and went and hugged Jack and told him he loved him. He would not leave him to die. Jack couldn’t move, so Brownie picked him up and crawled piggy back; back to the trees where the rest of the men in his battalion were hiding and watching in astonishment.

Brownie was somewhere else, his life was flashing back and forward he had an unquiet mind, and tried to concentrate on his last memories as his body withered away, back to the stage of a baby before he passed to the other side.

General Lee told the men they would be going home the next week. It was near June 6th 1942, and they would no longer be part of the 506th parachute infantry. Brownie went to the nearby Air force base and flew out to go back to South Dakota to see his sister and parents who he hadn’t seen in 5 years. When he got back, Helen was there to meet him, she ran to him and hugged him and told him how much she missed him. “I love you big brother! I am going to walk now, thanks to you!” she told him that they would be moving to Southern California were she could receive further treatment for her polio and that she would be applying to medical school there to become a nurse. She kissed him again and Brownie smiled.

Brownie received a purple heart for his bravery the day he saved Jack’s life. He went on to marry Pauline Lear brown and they lived in Reche Canyon, where they lived happily together until death. Brownie, Flintoff Brown passed in 2007. They are both still in my memories and I think of them every day. Helen lived happy and healthy, and worked as a nurse near Oceanside, California. Helen and Pauline both passed in 2013.

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