MEIGS COUNTY — For William Charles Brewer it was a trip 20 years in the making and one he did to honor his late brother, James.
James Brewer served in the military and was sent to Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
James was four years older than Charlie and the younger brother recalls that James always liked to play military games with his twin, John, growing up on the family farm outside of Chester, Ohio. James and his brother John were both in the military, but only one would be deployed overseas. John went on to be a combat medic and spent time stationed in Hawaii.
James Dale Brewer enlisted in the Army on Nov. 5, 1965. After basic training at Fort Jackson, he was sent to Fort Dix. He eventually was sent to Fort Devens, and trained with the 196th LIB before being sent to Vietnam on the USS Patch out of Boston. He participated in Operations Attleboro, Gadsden, Cedar Falls, and Junction City.
James was transferred to A/3/22nd on the day the unit landed at LZ Gold in Vietnam. He was killed two days later, March 21, 1967, on the day that marked the halfway point to his 21st birthday.
Charlie recalled the day that representatives arrived at the family home to tell his mother about James’ death. “My mother knew as soon as she opened the door,” said Brewer. John was able to escort his brother’s remains back home for the services which were held at Ewing Funeral Home.
Charlie said James wanted to have a career in the military, working his way up the ladder.
For his actions during the battle, James D. Brewer, SP4 E-4, was awarded the Bronze Star (posthumously).
“Specialist Brewer’s company was set up in a perimeter defense northeast of Soui Da in Tay Ninh Province, when a Viet Cong regimental force attacked the perimeter and surrounded it. Specialist Brewer’s position was under heavy concentration of automatic weapons and mortar fire. Specialist Brewer, seeing the .50 caliber machine gun position being overrun, maneuvered through intense enemy fire to the beleaguered position and placed highly effective fire on the oncoming enemy force until he was mortally wounded. His actions were directly responsible for keeping friendly casualties to a minimum. Specialist Brewer’s disregard for his own safety, coolness under fire, and personal bravery are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army,” read the information regarding the presentation of the Bronze Star.
Fifty-two years after his brother was killed, Charlie stood on the battlefield, paying tribute to his brother, along with others killed in the battle, the next step in the journey to honor his brother and learn about the battle in which he was killed.
Charlie has spent several years researching the battle and learning about the death of his brother in the Vietnam War. Along the way he has spoken to many others who had served in the battle. It was in those connections that he met Michael Doolittle, a survivor of the battle, who would make the trip to Vietnam with him.
Speaking in a small ceremony at the battlefield, Charlie said, “To come here to Suoi Tre battlefield has been a quest of mine for many years. I am honored to be here today to pay tribute to my brother James Dale Brewer who died on this battlefield 52 years ago and is still sadly missed. I owe so much to so many in helping me to get here. I am privileged to share this day with Michael Doolittle, who witnessed the carnage and is a survivor of that historic battle. I am also here to pay tribute to those that perished on this battlefield on the 19, 20, and 21st of 1967. You are not forgotten.”
“The loss of life on both sides should be a lesson to all that war is not the answer. It is only destruction and devastation. May the world learn to live in peace and harmony. We came here also with hope that returning here will be a sense of healing to help us deal with the mental scars of war. In closing, I want to say this, this is not closure. There will never be closure. This is just another step to help our healing.”
In addition to his trip to the battlefield, Charlie has spoken with many veterans of the Vietnam War who served in the units his brother was with. He has attended some of the reunion events and met with the fellow soldiers to hear their stories.
During his trip to the battlefield, there was a group which was attempting to locate possible mass graves of soldiers whose remains have never been located. While they did not locate any of the graves during that trip, some had previously been located and as new information arises additional searches could take place. It is believed there were 647 enemy bodies buried on the battlefield. The goal is to locate those bodies to bury them in a cemetery where they can be honored.
Brewer plans to return to the battlefield next year.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.