The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress
May/June 2005
FEATURE
 

 

Tim Brown's Vow
 

BY JIM BELSHAW

In the early 1970s, Tim Brown saw an advertisement in Leatherneck magazine. The parents of a missing Marine sought anyone who might have known their son. Tim Brown knew him. He had fought alongside him, and he knew the man had died in the battle at Ngok Tavak.

Brown contacted the family and found that the government had told them a story about their son’s disappearance that Brown knew to be untrue. It would be years before he became proactive about it. But when he did, Brown invested the effort with the tenacity of a Marine determined to abide by a central tenet of the Corps. That perseverance and devotion to duty made him the driving force behind the effort to find and return the remains of the men who died at Ngok Tavak and then Kham Duc.

Brown says the ensuing years of endeavor and his unyielding insistence on righting a wrong all go back to a vow.

“It was hammered into all soldiers, Marines in particular, that we never left our dead on the battlefield,” he said. “I, along with others who were there at Ngok Tavak, knew there wasn’t anything to be done at the time. It was tactically impossible to do anything. But God put me in the right place and the right time. I was lucky. I was medevaced out of there well before the rest of them basically got slaughtered. So guilt and a sense of responsibility and sense of devotion to those guys I served with gave me the drive to do what I could.”

In 1983, he became part of the group that formed the first VVA chapter (137) in Texas. It was the beginning of what Brown called “really catching the passion and fire.”

POW-MIA issues energized him. He researched the battles of Ngok Tavak and Kham Duc by obtaining after-action reports and collecting notes from veterans of the battles. He contacted men he served with.

"One led to another and I wound up making contact with about eight veterans of my battery,” he said. “I had to rely on that and oral histories of other guys to put together the information that eventually led to the map that we provided to the government on where the bodies were left at Ngok Tavak.”

An official at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command said the map of the Ngok Tavak battle site—drawn by David Fuentes, a Ngok Tavak veteran who lives in Chicago—proved to be crucially important in the location and discovery of remains.

As Brown made his way through the leadership ranks of VVA, he made contact with families of the missing Marines and continued to research the battles. In the mid-1980s, following his election to the national Board of Directors, he brought the Ngok Tavak-Kham Duc issue to the attention of Bill Duker, then chair of VVA’s POW-MIA committee.

“I asked him to bring the issue to the government’s attention and request that it put some focus and energy on it,” he said. “There was such a large number of cases—13—associated with this single battle that it seemed to me to make good sense to focus some energy and assets on it because it potentially could resolve a large number of MIA cases.”

With the news that JPAC had begun contacting family members of the missing, Brown expressed gratitude for all those who had a hand in seeing the effort to a successful end, particularly Dan Carr, Don Waak, Harry Albert, Bill Duker and all who have played a role in the Veterans Initiative since its inception.

   

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