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By Kevin Fox
"To me, everyday is Veteran’s Day. I recognize the holiday like everyone else does. However, everyday that we enjoy in this country is because of the veterans, those serving now and those who served in the past", stated Paul Brotherton. He continued, "There are those who might say that things are bad here at home. Trust me, I have traveled all over the world during my 27 years in the military. There is no other place on this earth that is as great as America. And that’s because of our veterans. So it’s impossible for me not to think about our veterans when I see the flag, or I see a picture of the Statue of Liberty or the Liberty Bell. In order for us to be able to enjoy our freedoms a price was paid, and that price was paid for by a veteran!"
Paul Brotherton is a native of Clark County and was born south of Alexandria and north of Gregory’s Landing near what we locals refer to as the Lone Star area. His military career, which involved a great deal of volunteering did not begin that way, as he was drafted in to the Army when 19 years old. His arrival in Viet Nam happened just in time for him to be involved the close of the Tet Offensive. He was serving with the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Calvary Division. Paul spoke briefly about his experiences during that tour of duty. You tried very hard not to think about time, you know look at a calendar and say to yourself, "I’ll be heading home on such a such date." Viet Nam to me was worse than any nightmare I could imagine and a lot of it was caused by the same problems we are experiencing today. There wouldn’t be any enemy in the area during the day and at night those same people that you would be around all day would become the enemy. Patrols would go out and say that an area was clear during the day and then when night arrived everything would all break loose. When I first arrived I belonged to a mortar group and we attacked the first night I was there. It seemed like it was almost the same thing everyday for my first two weeks. So when they asked for volunteers for a Long Range Reconnaissance to go out on patrols, I thought this had to be better than sitting there as a target. This patrol did a lot of its work at night and movement was limited so as not to draw attention (fire) to ourselves. I think that it was a better move since instead we were the ones during the surprising instead of being surprised. However, we still lost men. I remember as if it were yesterday, that we went to one fire base where they asked us to stay the night and after we talked about it a while we decided to stay at this fire base, for some hot food. It was the worst decision we ever made as that night we were overran and from the 11 men in our group only the 1st Sergeant and myself escaped alive and at 11:00 a.m. the next day the enemy was still in the base. There were a great many causalities surrounding the defense of that individual fire base."
After only being out of the military a short time, Paul signed up with the Army Reserves for a time before re-enlisting back to active duty and then back into the Reserves. Paul spent five years of active service and 22 years in the Reserves. A part of the five years in active duty was spent in Germany and Ft. Riley Kansas. His Reserve career includes serving out of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and the last 19 years out of Quincy, Illinois. He became the Drill Instructor of the year for 2nd Brigade, 85th Division. Paul competed at Fort Monroe, Virginia against other Army Reserve Drill Sergeants where Paul said there were no losers because of the level of competition is was just an honor to be there. Paul would take 2nd Place honors in the nation in his field of competitors. Paul was promoted to 1st sergeant and at the time of his retirement he held the rank of E-9 Command Sergeant Major, a position he held for his last three years. This meant he was the senior enlisted advisor for the entire battalion.
In talking about his military career, a humble Paul Brotherton will simply say that the military has been very good to him and that he was honored to have served. That doesn’t quite do his service justice. His awards and decorations include: 2 National Defense Service medals, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with #60 device, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Expert Infantry Badge, 2 Air Medals, 4 Good Conduct Medals, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Overseas Service Medal, the Bronze star, the NCO Professional Development Ribbon with #3, the Army Service Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 2 Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals, 2 Army Achievement Medals, 4 Army Commendation Medals, the Legion of Merit, the Drill Sergeant Qualification Badge, the Expert Rifle Qualification Badge, and the Expert Pistol Qualification Badge.
Paul is also a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Clark County. In the past this citizen / soldier served on the ambulance crew and the rescue squad. He has since slowed down somewhat and now enjoys the freedom that he has so richly defended. He also spends a great deal of time talking to schools about the military, especially during the Veteran’s Day observance in fact he visits schools in both Iowa and Illinois. He is also on call for those who are considering the military through his continued connections with the Reserves in Quincy. He and his wife Ruth attend the military balls and he still participates in the Color Guard when there is a need. But the story does not end with Paul. You see Paul and Ruth’s two sons also wear the uniform of this country.
A proud Paul stated, "I never once mentioned to Jason or Devin that they should at any time consider the military. Both of them just surprised us when they said that they had to report for physicals. I cannot say that I was surprised, but the military is a commitment that only you can make and live with. It’s true that if you’re in the military your family must be just as committed, but the decision to sign those enlistment papers, is an individual one. Jason is a 1st Lieutenant in the regular army through the ROTC program, who by now may be a Captain as we were told it might happen any day. He is based out of Fort Texas. Currently he is in Korea and will be there until sometime in June next year. Devin is in the Reserve and is a Specialist serving with the same Unit I did in Quincy, Illinois."
As we near the Veteran’s Day observance let us be ever mindful of those who have worn the uniform of this country and defended the freedoms that we so carelessly take for granted. But let us also take a tip from Paul Brotherton and remember those veterans every day, especially those who sacrificed their dreams of a peaceful future, in order that future generations of Americans could.