Memories Live On

This Memorial Day will be especially poignant for Flora Brooks.

Earlier this month, her husband’s name was added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On Monday, he will be honored again as part of the national ceremony, hosted by the Department of Defense and involving President Barack Obama.

Her husband, Johnny Owen Brooks was drafted into the U.S. Army when he was 20 years old. The draft notice arrived in February 1969, just three weeks after he had married Flora, his high school sweetheart. Johnny completed basic and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lewis, Washington and on Sept. 1, 1969, he left for Vietnam.

Assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, Johnny was on the ground and in the jungle. On Nov. 14, 1969, he and his company, Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry, was attacked, killing three soldiers and severely wounding Johnny.

He was hit in the back and both legs. He spent four days in country before he was sent to the 109 Army Hospital in Japan where his right leg was amputated. When he was strong enough to return home, he was sent to an Army hospital in California. The first night he was there in December 1969, Johnny and Flora were told that Johnny’s left leg could not be saved. About a week later, he was taken to surgery for skin grafts to protect his back. Johnny went into cardiac/respiratory arrest that lasted 23 minutes, causing brain damage.

Johnny survived, but could not walk, talk or eat and lost the use of his hands and arms. He was confined to a hospital bed and could only sit up for very short periods of time.

“And yet, he lived the life of a true American hero, brave and courageous. He was the inspiration to his mother and father, his wife, his sister and family for 41 years as he lived his faith and trust in God to see him through,” Flora wrote of her late husband.

She cared for him so he was able to live in their home until Feb. 24, 2011, two days after his 62nd birthday.

“He will never be forgotten,” Flora wrote.

His name is etched in marble on Panel 16W, Line 106. He joins the other 58, 281 names on The Wall and Johnny’s photo and story will be included in the Education Center at The Wall. The Education Center will provide a home for stories like Johnny’s so that future generations will be able to develop a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made by those in uniform during the Vietnam War, but also the scarifies of all American service members and their families.

The ceremony will start at 1:30 p.m. at The Wall on Monday. Security closes at 1 p.m. so please arrive early if you’d like to attend. Bring photo identification and go through security on Constitution Avenue at 20th Street.