DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Skip Brown has been living with a secret.
“I owe a lot of people in the Delray Beach Police Department an apology, I really do,” he told a crowd at the Creste Theatre in Old School Square in Delray Beach. “A lot of law officers I worked with never knew I was in Vietnam or that I was wounded.”
He retired from as a policeman from the Delray Beach Police Department in 2005 after 20 years.
For 40 years, he bottled up everything that came with being in the forgotten war of Vietnam.
“It was not cool to be a veteran back then let alone a Vietnam vet,” he said. “Thank you’s turned into F-U’s.”
What his police peers didn’t know was on Feb. 29, 1972, Brown wounded during an ambush. It killed some of his friends. Survivors went home and received their Bronze Stars, but Brown didn’t.
His four months of recovery in a hospital left it as an oversight. He didn’t say anything to anyone about it. That all changed about five years ago, when his commanding officer called him, putting together a book about the war.
“What he thought was awarded was not awarded,” he said. “He was a little hot!”
An act of congress would be required since more than 10 years have passed. Brown lives in Alabama now, so his commanding officer called then Senator, now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Forty-five years later, Brown awarded for his heroics in combat.
"There was plenty of valor shown that night. By every one of us. But it was not done on purpose. It wasn't done for medals or accolades. It was done just to damn keep alive,” Brown said.
His friend, and former Delray Mayor Jeff Perlman, pinned it to him.
“It’s such an incredible honor, I have no words for it. He’s a hero of mine,” Perlman says.
But it wouldn’t stay fastened to his breast pocket long. He gifted the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which he earned previously, to two family friends, children Aiden and Katie.
“Not only do you have to remember all the ones that are on the black granite wall of Vietnam, you’ve got to pass our legacy on, or else it will die,” he said.
This brings it all full circle for Brown. He says today gives him that closure he’s been searching for, for so long.