Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Former U.S. Marine Jeremy Houston reads a prayer after placing American flags at the grave of Sgt. Henry L. Brown, the first soldier from the Miss-Lou killed in the Iraq War. Monday would have been Brown’s 33rd birthday.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Former U.S. Marine Jeremy Houston reads a prayer after placing American flags at the grave of Sgt. Henry L. Brown, the first soldier from the Miss-Lou killed in the Iraq War. Monday would have been Brown’s 33rd birthday.

Viewfinder: Former Marine honors heroic Natchez soldier

Published 12:01am Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Editor’s note: The Viewfinder is a weekly feature in which a photographer tells a story through the lens of a camera.

NATCHEZ — The streets of Natchez are filled with the names of heroes.

Jeremy Houston sees them every time he takes visitors on a tour of the city. John R. Lynch, William Johnson, Richard Wright and Wharlest Jackson are only a few of the well-known African-American heroes in Natchez.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Former U.S. Marine Jeremy Houston places red carnations at the street sign named after Sgt. Henry L. Brown, the first soldier from the Miss-Lou killed in the Iraq War.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Former U.S. Marine Jeremy Houston places red carnations at the street sign named after Sgt. Henry L. Brown, the first soldier from the Miss-Lou killed in the Iraq War.

Then there is Sgt. Henry L. Brown, a Natchez soldier who gave his life for his country and yet, Houston recently discovered, a hero relatively unknown.

A former U.S. Marine, Houston realized how little was known about Brown when his younger cousins asked him why Sgt. Brown’s name was on the street sign on Lynda Lee Drive.

Houston knew who Brown was, but was surprised that others did not.

“You don’t see too many young men these days taking a stand like he did,” Houston said. “He was an example, who took the ultimate sacrifice for people like me.”

Houston knows what ultimate sacrifice means. In 2010 in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, Houston’s troop was caught in an explosion where a fellow soldier died and another was paralyzed from the waist down. Houston survived with scars on his back and legs from shrapnel.

Since Brown’s death ten years ago, Houston has always looked up to the soldier — the first from the Miss-Lou to die in the Iraq War.

“I was a freshman at Natchez High School,” Houston said. “I remember seeing his mom on television when he died. Ever since that day I wanted to honor him.”

On the day that would have been Brown’s 33rd birthday, Houston placed flowers, American flags at the street sign on Lynda Lee Drive and at Brown’s grave in the Natchez National Cemetery Monday morning. At the grave site he marked the occasion with a prayer.

Now when Houston shows tourists the sites of African American heroes on the heritage tour of the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture, he is sure to go by the street sign on Lynda Lee Drive and show them the neighborhood where Brown lived.

“He is someone who looked like me and my family,” Houston said. “He is a hero.”