Hundreds gather to remember Brown

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Almost 1,000 family and friends, officials and military personnel crowded into the convention center Friday to pay tribute to the first Natchez native killed in combat in more than 30 years.

Sgt. Henry Brown, a 22-year-old killed April 7 in Baghdad when a vehicle near him was hit by weapons fire, was a soldier’s soldier, said Staff Sgt. James Payton, who served with Brown.

&uot;He was dedicated, and he always took care of his soldiers,&uot; Payton said before the service, standing near the flag-draped casket of Brown, who enlisted in the Army when he was only 18. &uot;And he was just a kind person.&uot;

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That dedication &045; and that friendship &045; were rewarded by the Army with a burial with full military honors at Natchez National Cemetery.

Following a 21-gun salute, Maj. Gen. Robert Dail, who directs the Army’s Transportation Division, personally handed a folded flag to Brown’s family.

But Brown was so much more than just a dedicated soldier, said his wife, Spc. JoDona Brown.

&uot;I could talk to him about anything,&uot; she said through tears. &uot;He spoiled me. There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do for me Šor anyone in this room.

&uot;I loved Henry more than I loved myself. I know I need to let go, just not right now. Henry, you will forever be in my heart, mind and thoughts.&uot;

Brown touched so many lives in so many ways, said those who spoke at Friday’s service.

To his friends and former classmates, he was the person you could always look to to lighten your burden.

&uot;If he had it, everybody had it,&uot; said Brown’s best friend, Frank Woods Jr. &045; who noted, to the laughter of the crowd, that some of the best times he shared with Brown couldn’t be repeated.

&uot;And he could lighten up a situation with just a laugh or a word. He was the type of person who made you better, and he gave everything because that’s all he knew how to do.&uot;

Woods also read a resolution honoring Brown from Natchez High’s Class of 1999 as more than 40 of Brown’s former classmates stood in unison.

And even as a member of an 11- and 12-year-olds baseball team in the T.M. Jennings League, Brown was already exemplifying the traits needed to be successful in sports and in life, said a former coach.

&uot;He gave everything,&uot; Royal Hill said, adding that Brown showed leadership, character and teamwork, as well as good citizenship and love of country, on and off the field.

Hill presented Brown’s grandfather, Henry James, with a jersey emblazoned with Brown’s nickname &045; &uot;10 Slim.&uot; This season, Hill said, is dedicated to him.

The Rev. Larry Wright, pastor of Greater New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, said Brown was a soldier not only for his country, but in the service of God.

Among other things, Brown was a Sunday school teacher at Greater New Bethel at one time. &uot;Any thing you can get a young man to be dutiful in God’s house, that is truly a blessing from the Lord,&uot; Wright said.

Brown is not truly dead, but is instead alive with God in heaven, Wright said.

Such hopeful words, the soaring music of a combined choir and the remembrance of Brown’s life rather than his death were exactly what Brown’s mother, Rhonda James-Brown, wanted, friends said.

&uot;Jesus said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you, Š (and) be faithful, and I will give you a crown of life,&uot; Wright said. &uot;From the short time I knew him, (Henry Brown) seemed to be one of God’s best men.&uot;