Two-star general trades boot camp for backyard

Published 1:06 am Monday, April 21, 2008

Natchez— After 31 years of retirement, it was no surprise to find retired Maj. Gen. Grover Brown, 95, relaxing with family and friends when the Dart landed on Dana Road late Saturday afternoon.

A two-star general at the time of his retirement, Brown served in the U.S. Air Force after 31 eventful years that took him all across the world, including into royal palaces.

When he was serving as a part of the military attaché to the U.S. embassy in London in the 1960s, Brown went with war hero Jacques Whitney to present Whitney’s credentials to Queen Elizabeth II.

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“They put us in one of those carriages pulled by those big horses and we rode it down the street,” Brown said. “They told us to march in, and the queen was standing in line with her entourage. We shook hands with her and curtsied, and she was as gentle with us as she could be — we were pretty nervous.”

Brown looks back at his time in England fondly.

“It was a tour of duty I had great fun with,” he said. “It was three years of service a country boy from Natchez rarely gets.”

But Brown also served in some posts that were not so fun.

“I went to Hawaii ready to have a good time, but then we had that big confrontation in Vietnam,” he said. “My boss decided we were at war, so he strapped a buzzer onto my belt, so that was the end of my fun.”

During that time, he made several trips into Vietnam, including one with a very close call.

An enemy combatant sneaked close enough to where Brown was staying to hurl an artillery shell — of which Brown still has a piece — into the camp.

“My buddy who was there had gotten up to use the bathroom, and while he was gone that shell came through and blew his bed all to pieces,” Brown said. “One of the pieces of it flew over and hit the wall right above my head.”

Brown also served during the Korean police action and World War II, but there is one piece of his service he remembers with a particular distaste.

“I spent 12 years working at the Pentagon,” he said. “It was awful.”

When he retired, Brown said he and a friend drove across the country to find a place to retire to, making a trip from Florida to California and back.

After the countrywide tour — and having seen the world — Brown said he and his friend came to a retirement decision.

“We propped up our feet, and a drink, and said, ‘There’s no place like home,’” Brown said.