Remembering our heroes

By Donna Lampkin Stephens

The Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame is doing its part to make sure Americans never forget the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Chief Petty Officer Adam Brown (left) and Staff Sgt. George Bennett

Marking the unofficial beginning of summer, Memorial Day has, in many respects, been co-opted by retail sales and too often gets lost amid cookouts and trips to the lake. Memorial Day, which became a national holiday in 1971, honors the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. It originated as Decoration Day following the Civil War.

“There are so many of these men and women who have given their all for our country, and too often we tend to take those things for granted and forget about them,” said Master Sgt. Dusty Brown, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force and serves as the public affairs chair of the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice to our country for the freedoms that we do have.”

According to the hall of fame’s website, the organization’s objective is to “publicly emphasize the honor brought to our state and nation by the sacrifice” of Arkansas military veterans and their families. The first class was inducted in 2011; the 2020 and ‘21 classes will be recognized in November.

Brown spotlighted former 501 honorees Chief Petty Officer Adam Brown of Hot Springs and Staff Sgt. George Bennett of Thornburg as among those to remember this Memorial Day.

Brown, a 2018 honoree, joined the U.S. Navy in 1998. According to the website, he served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He became a Navy SEAL, and eventually, despite a training accident that damaged his right eye (requiring him to learn to shoot left-handed at sniper school) and having most of the fingers of his right hand severed after a Humvee accident in Afghanistan (requiring him to learn to shoot a pistol with his left hand), earned a spot on SEAL Team 6, the premier counterterrorism unit.

Brown was killed in action in 2010 during his team’s raid on a Taliban stronghold in northeastern Afghanistan after “providing life-saving cover for his trapped teammates and non-combatants” that resulted in the death of the targeted Taliban commander.

Brown’s honors include the Silver Star medal for gallantry in action, the Bronze Star medal with valor, the Purple Heart medal, the Defense Meritorious Service medal and three Navy Achievement medals.

Bennett, who was inducted in 2018, became the first American prisoner of war to be executed by the Viet Cong. He was captured in South Vietnam on Dec. 29, 1964. According to the website, Bennett planned three escape attempts. Because of his “tenacity and insubordination,” he was often blindfolded, beaten, given reduced rations, and shackled in solitary confinement for extended periods. He was reportedly executed for injuring one of his captors during one of the escape attempts.

Bennett was awarded the Silver Star medal for gallantry in action and the Purple Heart Medal. His remains have never been recovered.

Donna Stephens
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