Lake Charles Coast Guard members honor life of World War II veteran

(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
(Source: U.S. Coast Guard)

The following is a U.S. Coast Guard story:

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann

LAKE CHARLES, La. - A family, a community and military branch mourn the passing of Roy Brown Jr., loving and devoted patriarch and World War II veteran, who, after 92 years of life passed away, Jan. 19, 2013.

Brown's strong sense of devotion to duty and selfless patriotism drove him to enlist in the Coast Guard during World War II. He was stationed in New Orleans, Charlotte, N.C., and aboard the USS Huron.

While stationed in Charlotte he served as shoreline lookout. Brown was assigned a horse and a pistol with a single bullet. If he saw enemy ships or submarines while patrolling his assigned route, he was to fire his pistol in the air to alert nearby forces of danger.

After his time in Charlotte, he was assigned to the USS Huron as lead signalman. The Huron was a U.S. Navy vessel crewed by Coast Guard members given the daunting task of acting as a military escort across the formidable waters of the Atlantic, from the U.S. to Africa. On Dec. 1, 1944, off the coast of North Africa, the Huron was assisting wayward merchant vessels when it was struck by the SS James Fenimore Cooper, fracturing the hull of the Heron and causing immediate flooding in the engine room.

The damage control teams worked quickly and were able to save the ship, but it was dead in the water. The USS Choctaw towed the broken Huron thousands of miles in rough weather to a port in Bermuda where the crippled vessel was overhauled and converted into a sonar-training ship.

After the war, Brown left the Coast Guard and became very active in his Lake Charles community. Aside from starting his own successful business, he also became a key member and active participant of many esteemed, local organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Young Men's Business Club and the Lake Charles Power Squadron to name just a few. Despite his numerous accomplishments, Brown was always drawn back to those four years when he wore the Coast Guard uniform with unbridled enthusiasm.

"Roy Brown was so proud of his Coast Guard past," said Petty Officer First Class Jay Buehner, a member of Marine Safety Unit Lake Charles and fiancé to Brown's granddaughter, Allison Brown.

"You could see how much it still affected his life. The first time I met him, he said, 'I hear you're in the Coast Guard.' I said, 'yes sir.' and he just rattled off his serial number, just like that. It had been 60 years! So, I rattled off my employee ID number just as quick and that was our first conversation.

"He loved to talk about being a signalman. In the Coast Guard, we hear about Douglas Munro being a signalman, but I'd never met one," said Buehner.

As much as Brown loved talking about his time and experiences in the Coast Guard, Buehner loved hearing about them and sharing his own.

"Every time I'd go over to his house he'd find pictures for me or some stuff from his boat to show me and I'd bring over stuff I'd have left over from my time on [Coast Guard Cutter] Gallatin," said Buehner. "I'd bring him the latest issues of Coast Guard Magazine and stuff like that and he'd love it. He and I would always talk Coast Guard stuff. He could never get enough."

"Just hearing his stories, just seeing those pictures of him wearing the uniform so proudly… It brought a lot of pride to me. He was so proud to be a Coastie. That's all we'd talk about," said Buehner.

During the funeral service, Coast Guard members from MSU Lake Charles honored Brown in a manner befitting his service to his country. They provided an honor guard and flag folding ceremony for the family members of their shipmate.

"Today, we celebrated the life and service of one of our own World War II era Coast Guard heroes," said Cmdr. Will Watson, commanding officer of MSU Lake Charles. "Signalman Second Class Brown was a true patriot. It was an honor for us all, to honor him here today."

As Brown's family, friends and general admirers shared their mutual grief and stories of his great character, one thing that Buehner said seems to ring true for everyone in attendance:

"I'm just very fortunate for the time I've spent with Mr. Roy."

Farewell shipmate. The Coast Guard wishes you fair winds and following seas.