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Things My Father-in-Law Taught Me


Sergeant Major Insignia United States Marine Corps


Bronze Star with Valor Device


This is dedicated to the memory of my father-in-law, Horace Charles Brown or as he was known by everyone Chuck Brown.  After several years of declining health Chuck passed away early last month.  Chuck was a retired and highly decorated Marine Corps Sergeant Major – one of the highest Marine Corps enlisted ranks.  He was the recipient of the Bronze Star with a Valor device and Purple Heart.  The medals were for his battlefield heroism during his two tours of duty in Vietnam.  The Bronze Star is the third medal down in the hierarchy from Congressional Medal of Honor.  

A humble man Chuck never spoke about the circumstances leading to his award but I knew it was for his heroism in combat.  I also recently learned he received a battlefield promotion because of his heroism.  Having served in the Air Force I felt Chuck and I developed a mutual respect for each other based on our military service although I always held him in very high regard because of his rank and Bronze star.  I’m grateful I was able to spend a weekend with him last Fall and his absence is deeply felt.  Tragically, the Pretty Lady has now lost both of her parents and her children now only have their grandparents on their dad’s side of the family.  Here are just a few of the things my father-in-law taught me:

  • Be there for Your Family especially for your Sons.  Chuck’s Marine Corps assignments took him away from his family for a significant period of times especially during times when sons need their fathers to show them the way.  From conversations with Chuck I feel that was one thing he would have done differently.  And if you can’t be there in person get on the phone and stay connected.  If you’re divorced and directed to pay child support you better take care of your obligation to your children. 
  • Barbequing.  Although I’m an Eagle Scout and experienced with outdoor cooking I never mastered barbequing.  For the first several years of our marriage we would regularly drive down to Chuck’s house in Southern California to spend the Fourth of July with him.  I remember feeling dread when he asked me to barbeque.  Chuck was a great teacher and eventually I mastered the art of barbequing.  Thanks to Chuck I proudly wear the titles of “Lord of the Grill” and “King of the Coals”. 
  • Life in the Desert.  Chuck lived in high desert country in the town of Yucca Valley.  The town is about 16,000+ in size and my first impression was this is the town someone comes to if they want to stay one step ahead of the law.  For Chuck it was his way of dealing with post trumatic stress from Vietnam – wide open spaces, few people and outside of the weather stress free living .  Air conditioning is an absolute essential in the summer – the farmer’s feed the chicken’s ice so they don’ t lay hard boiled eggs.  The times I visited outside of the summer I found the weather to be quite pleasant.  Another reason he choose to retire there was proximity to the Marine Corps Base at 29 Palms.  If you’re a veteran live close to a base so you can take advantage of their facilities (commissary, base exchange, hospital, etc.)
  • Family.  Family was very important to Chuck.  He was driving force behind the family reunions of the Browns and McClendon’s.  He contributed significant amounts financially and applied his drill instructor skillls in ensuring everyone assigned with a task carried it out.  The first one was held in Las Vegas several years ago during the Thanksgiving holiday.  I remember him describing to me different family members in his savory way and with less than flattering language and yet he still loved and embraced them all as family.  I was also a proud recipent of the Hononary Family member certificate.  Family is based on relationship and not blood and with all their baggage, misdeeds and foibles once family always family.
  • Power of Prayer.  Almost two years ago Chuck was hospitalized with a life threatening infection and at the time his doctors said Chuck’s chances of survival were slim.  Fortunately, it’s the Man Upstairs who always has the finally say.   Alot of people were praying for him and he survived.  After recovering the doctor shared with Chuck in his experience he was the first person to survive the particular infection he had – prayer works.
  • Kids are People Too.  When conversing with Chuck about child rearing he pointed out that regardless of their age I needed to remember to treat a child like a person and not an object.  Kids just haven’t been around as long as me but I needed to treat them with the same dignity and respect I would treat another adult.  I’m embarassed to say I found his wisdom to be profound.  My parents raised me in the old school mantra, “Children should be seen and not heard” and almost automatically I  initially adopted their same approach so thanks to Chuck he showed me a better way.  Children thrive when they’re treated as a person and not an object.

Chuck had a drill instructor demeanor but teddy bear insides.  I read the following from a Hallmark card,

A good man chooses to do what’s right.  He places importance on family.  A good man changes the world by his own example.  He shapes the lives of his children with the strength of his love.” 

Chuck Brown was a good man.  Please take some time to acknowledge the legacy of your father/stepfather and remember how they affected you.  Happy Father’s Day Chuck!


  1. Very well written Gerardo. I miss Chuck too!

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