Army veteran, Soldier for Life celebrates 90th birthday

By Lori A. McFate, Public Affairs Specialist, Joint Munitions CommandApril 15, 2022

Army Veteran, Soldier For Life Celebrates 90th Birthday
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Left: Fred Brown, a young U.S. Army Soldier in 1952.

Right: Fred Brown enjoying his family, just before a cake-cutting ceremony, as family sang Happy 90th Birthday to him. (Photo Credit: Lori McFate)
Army Veteran, Soldier For Life Celebrates 90th Birthday
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fred Brown, returning from the Quad Cities Honor Flight, August 2017. Brown proudly carried his late brother Billy Joe's picture to D.C. in honor of his service in the Korean War. Brown's Honor Flight experience was shared with his brother-in-law, Loren. (Photo Credit: Lori McFate) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army Veteran, Soldier For Life Celebrates 90th Birthday
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fred Brown (center) surrounded by family at the Windmill Family Restaurant, East Moline, Illinois, on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Photo Credit: Lori McFate) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army Veteran, Soldier For Life Celebrates 90th Birthday
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fred Brown's 90th Birthday cake created by a local Quad City area favorite, Old Town Bakery, Moline, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Lori McFate) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army Veteran, Soldier For Life Celebrates 90th Birthday
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fred Brown, holding a picture of his G.E.D from the State of Iowa (issued 1971 at the age of 39). (Photo Credit: Lori McFate) VIEW ORIGINAL

Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. – Fred Brown celebrated his 90th birthday with family and friends in East Moline, Illinois on March 26. Born in Beaverton, Alabama on March 30, 1932 into a family that loved serving the United States of America, Brown is proud of his "Soldier for Life" story.

Although he attended Sulligent High School in Sulligent, Alabama, he began his Army civilian career in May 1951 at Rock Island Arsenal, prior to completing his education. Years later, as a husband and father of three, he earned his general education diploma from the State of Iowa, while still employed at RIA, in 1971 at age 39.

"This is one of my most cherished accomplishments; to think after all those years, I did it," said Brown.

Brown and his first wife, Cathy, were married in July 1952, just before he was drafted into the U.S. Army in December 1952. Together, they had three children: Veronica (born in 1954 at New York Naval Hospital), John (born in 1959 in Moline Public Hospital, Moline, Illinois), and Terry (born in 1966 in Arab Hospital, Alabama). Brown served for two years at Fort Tilden, New York before being honorably discharged in 1954. After his discharge from active duty, Brown went on to serve another six years as an Army reservist at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

"Serving our country as a Soldier is one of my greatest joys in life," said Brown. "The Army taught me so many life skills, gave me amazing career opportunities, and allowed me to work as a Soldier and Army civilian serving my country for more than 35 years."

A career highlight for Brown was his selection to work at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama from 1965 to1966. He was a skilled gold-plating expert, put to work on the Saturn Rocket, applying gold plating on "out-of-space" probes to prevent corrosion.

"The best part about that work was meeting Wernher Von Braun," said Brown.

Braun was a German-American aerospace engineer and space architect, and pioneer of rocket and space technology in the United States.

Later in life, Brown remarried in 1987 and gained two step-children, Tim and Tracy. Together, he and his wife, Karen "Sue" Brown, have five grandchildren.

"I have to brag for a minute about my family," said Brown.

His great grandfather served with the 36th Alabama Infantry, his son, John, served with the 82nd Airborne, his father and grandfather were Army civilians, his wife's three brothers were all Soldiers, and his step-grandson served as a Marine. He also had two brothers, Billy Joe and Carl, who served in the Korean conflict.

"The list of family that has served is endless; uncles and cousins have also served as Soldiers or Army civilians," his wife said. "We both come from a long line of military service members and we couldn't be more proud."

Brown beamed when sharing the story of his father and grandfather joining him at Rock Island Arsenal. Once he settled back in at Rock Island Arsenal as an Army civilian, he encouraged his father and grandfather to join him.

"The Army provides a really good life; I wanted them to experience it with me," said Brown.

Tucked away with Brown's military service papers is a letter of appreciation from Battery D commander, Francis A. Pommett Sr., (Fort Hamilton, December 1954) and two letters of commendation from Fort Tilden commanders, Edward Winter (September 1954) and Leo Ziegler (December 1954).

Brown loves to travel, garden, watch NASCAR races and remodel homes. He and his wife have bought, remodeled and sold nine homes in several states. He is also passionate about being a member of the Scottish Rite Freemasonry (32nd degree) and the Mason fraternity for more than 60 years, the Kaaba Shrine for more than 50 years, and the American Legion in East Moline, Illinois for 45 years.

"I am so proud to be his daughter," said his daughter, Veronica. "His love for his family and our country is so admirable, and I am grateful we could all be together for his 90th birthday to shower him with love and warm birthday wishes."

Talking about all he has accomplished in 90 years, Brown said, "I don't feel any different than I did at 50 or 70 years old. Next May, I will have been retired for as many years as I served as a Soldier and Army civilian, and that's pretty darn cool."

Brown retired from Rock Island Arsenal in 1987. He and his wife reside in Moline, Illinois and take great pride honoring their country, placing flags on graves around the country of their late family members who have served, and truly living out a Soldier for Life story.