Natchez serviceman Henry Brown killed in Iraq

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2003

You won’t find Henry L. Brown on many pages in the yearbooks of Natchez High &045;&045; he wasn’t one for many sports and activities, save for JROTC.

But to his friends and former classmates, Brown was a valuable friend, a quiet, kind young man they had been friends with practically all their lives.

To JoDona Brown, an Army specialist who was also stationed in the Middle East, Brown was her husband of less than a year.

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And to his mother, Rhonda James-Brown, he was her world, her only child.

Early Tuesday, his mother said, Henry L. Brown, 22, a corporal with the Army’s HHC 2nd Brigade Command Group Unit 93 200, became the first soldier from Natchez to be killed in Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Just before noon, military officials came to James-Brown’s door to tell her the news. The details, she said, will come later.

The death has not been confirmed to the media by military officials.

In the hours that would follow, friends and co-workers filled her home to offer prayer and shoulders to cry on.

And Brown’s mother would find herself reflecting on her faith and on the little things she misses about her son &045;&045; like the way he would tease her, calling her by her nickname, &uot;Moosie.&uot;

&uot;Next to my mother, he was my best friend,&uot; said James-Brown, whose mother died six months ago. &uot;Now he’s in heaven with her and they’re both watching over me.&uot;

Friends said Tuesday here’s no doubt that heaven is where Brown, who accepted Christ at an early age, is today.

&uot;He was a person of deep faith,&uot; said one of Brown’s best lifelong friends, Frank Woods Jr., who was looking forward to seeing his friend when Brown came home on leave next month.

&uot;He was a family-oriented person, a person of religious background, … someone you could always depend on. If he had it, it was yours,&uot; Woods said. &uot;He wasn’t related to me by blood, but I called him ‘brother.’

&uot;The world is a little bit harder a place to live without him,&uot; Woods said.

Brown was also a positive person who would rather take action than complain about a bad situation. He also loved his country, Woods said.

&uot;The devotion to his country is just the type of commitment the nation needed for a soldier,&uot; he said.

As news of Brown’s death filtered through Natchez High, senior Jonathan Baldwin reflected on the young man who taught Sunday school to him and other 7-to 14-year-olds at Greater New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

&uot;You could come to him and talk to him about anything,&uot; Baldwin said.

News also traveled quickly Tuesday afternoon among Brown’s former classmates, who have now scattered to colleges far and wide.

Taji Dixon, who now attends Southern University in Baton Rouge, said fellow NHS alumna Tracy Bell called her with the news.

&uot;He was a sweet person, kind of shy, but liked by other people,&uot; Dixon said. &uot;He wasn’t really a sports type of person, but he participated in class. He was a kind person. And he was my friend.&uot;

Bell remembered most the good times she and Brown would have as children, when knowing him meant having a playmate in the afternoons and your fill of candy once a year.

&uot;His mother would always fill my bag full of candy on Halloween,&uot; Bell said with a soft laugh. &uot;He was always quiet in school &045;&045; but he would always crack me up with his jokes.

&uot;It’s just sad, …&uot; Bell said, her voice fading.

Some, although they didn’t know Brown himself, still felt that sadness and responded by helping his mother any way they could.

At Natchez Community Hospital, James-Brown’s co-workers took breaks throughout the day to pray with her and bring her food and hugs.

&uot;She’s well-respected and loved here, and we feel like we’re all family,&uot; said Esther Mingee, director of nursing at Community.

&uot;She’s one of our rocks,&uot; said Mystic Smith, one of the hospital’s nurse managers.

And God, James-Brown said, is her rock.

Her request is that others in the Miss-Lou pray for her and her family &045;&045; her sisters, who are traveling from out of town to be with her, and JoDona, who is now headed back to the United States.

&uot;Another thing,&uot; she said. &uot;Tell them that if they have children, whether they’re in the military or not, they should love them as much as they can while they can.&uot;

Of her own son, James-Brown only said &uot;God gave him to me. He lent him to me, and at 2:10 this morning, God decided to collect His child. He’s in heaven with the Lord now. And who am I to question God’s will?&uot;

Nita McCann is city editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3554 or by e-mail at