Ohio soldier honored with Hometown Heroes banner, but a classmate said: ‘That’s not Fred’

Program received the wrong photo for Vietnam War hero’s banner.

It’s unknown how the mistake happened, but the correct photo of Staff Sgt. Fred E. Brown will soon grace the High-Main Bridge along with the other Hometown Heroes banners in Hamilton.

The committee for the Hometown Heroes banner program received Brown’s photo from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund ― which was the photo posted on the Wall of Faces site until mid-July ― but retired Brigadier Gen. Lawrence Gillespie, a classmate who played football with Brown in high school, told the committee, “That’s not Fred.”

“It confused us because the photo we used was from the Vietnam Wall of Faces in Washington, D.C.,” said Hamilton Councilman Tim Naab, a Vietnam combat veteran on the Hometown Heroes committee. ”We found that the picture we used was not Fred Brown because of Gen. Gillespie.”

This is not a unique issue. In August 2022, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund reported it had a photo for each of the 58,281 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. But since that time, it found between 20 and 30 are incorrect, including Brown’s, said VVMF Director of Outreach Tim Tetz.

Tetz said the previous photo thought to be the Fred E. Brown of Garfield High School in Hamilton was provided by a volunteer who was given the photo “from a seemingly authoritative source.”

“The best we can discern, it was another Fred E. Brown,” Tetz said.

“SSG Fred E. Brown is on the Wall of Faces display and the correct photo will be visible for anyone visiting his page since it was submitted,” Tetz said. “When we use his profile in Wall of Faces productions ― for museums, community groups, or The Wall That Heals ― that (correct) photo will also be on display if the production was made after its submittal.”

Brown, who is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton with others who served in Vietnam, was a platoon sergeant for B Company in the 4th Battalion (Mechanized), 23rd Infantry, 25th Infantry Division while serving in the Tay Ninh province of Vietnam. On March 15, 1969, his company came under heavy enemy fire from a hidden enemy. His company began taking on casualties as the concealed enemy fired.

Regardless of the danger, Brown charged into the firefight to rescue not one but three wounded soldiers. The third time he went into danger, he suffered severe wounds but was still determined to get his brother-in-arms to safety. Then an enemy grenade was thrown and landed near Brown and the others he just saved. Brown, without hesitation, jumped onto the ordnance, shielding his comrades from the grenade blast.

“That is worthy of the Medal of Honor, in my mind,” Mayor Pat Moeller said of the actions. “That is the definition of valor.”

The Hamilton native was awarded for his actions on July 22, 1970, the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, which is awarded for a “display of extraordinary heroism in combat with an armed enemy force.” This is the second-highest honor bestowed upon a military member. However, Gillespie and a contingent of Hamiltonians, including Naab and Moeller, have said he deserves the highest honor and are pushing for Brown to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Naab said they’ve reached out to the office of Congressman Warren Davidson, R-Troy, to champion the cause in Washington, D.C. The Medal of Honor can be awarded in two ways. The first is through the chain of command. The second way is by a member of Congress.

Naab said they’re happy the actual photo of Hamilton’s Fred Brown had been confirmed by a cousin and aunt.

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