It was just about a year ago that Hoonah's Jarrett Brown, on his third tour in Afghanistan with the Army, was sent on a patrol into Arghandab River Valley, described by the military as a "hotbed of Taliban resistance" at the time.
They ran into an ambush, with the patrol taking small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
And it was there Brown showed the character his family in Hoonah had come to expect of him. In late July Brown received the Silver Star for his actions that day in the valley.
His family in Hoonah is proud of his action and the recognition, welcoming him home on leave shortly afterward.
"He's such a good guy," beamed Millie Jack, Brown's grandmother. "He's well loved by the whole family."
According the U.S. Army's account of the battle, Brown's unit was on patrol in August of 2009 when it was attacked.
Brown was serving as an assistant M-240 machine gunner, exposing himself to direct machine gun fire while having to fire his own rifle to cover a team caught in the open.
After Brown's gunner collapsed in the 100-degree heat, Brown grabbed the machine gun and the gunner, dragging them to cover before returning enemy fire.
When the platoon sergeant determined the situation was untenable, the sergeant ordered the squads to break contact.
Brown provided cover fire and dragged the gunner with him.
When an enemy fire team came to within 30 meters of Brown's position, he "threw the gunner behind the last concealment available, abandoned his own cover and engaged them, killing one and wounding a second enemy fighter."
On the way back to base, with Brown still carrying the gunner, the platoon came under fire again, with Brown again returning fire and driving the enemy far enough away to create a space for aircraft to come in and neutralize the enemy, allowing the platoon a safe return to base.
"Brown's first action once the platoon was safe was to find medical assistance for his gunner," the military said.
Reached by phone on leave, Brown declined comment.
Jack said she didn't want to talk about what happened when he returned to Hoonah shortly after receiving the medal in a ceremony at his unit's home on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash.
Hoonah's veterans wanted to hold a parade in his honor, Jack said, but Brown declined.
"He didn't want to make a big deal about his Silver Star, but we thought it was a big deal," she said.
Jack said after having seen friends killed, Brown didn't feel a celebration was appropriate.
Instead, they had dinner with the family.
Harvey Marvin, a member of Southeast Alaska Native Veterans, said he wasn't surprised at Brown's avoiding publicity. He said some in the group had hoped to get Brown to speak, but he declined.
Marvin said combat comes with consequences, and even those such as Brown who show outstanding heroism often do not want to talk about what they've gone through.
"A person will live with that the rest of their life," he said, "and it's not something they want to talk about."
Marvin said he told Brown's mother when he wants to talk about it, for her to just listen and not ask for details.
As time goes on, more and more people will press him for details on the traumatic experiences he's lived through.
That's something that too few people recognize about military service, Marvin said.
"Freedom is not free," he said. "People suffer the rest of their lives providing the freedom that other people enjoy."
Jack, who raised Brown's mother after a boating accident took the life of her sister, Brown's actual grandmother, said the family is happy Brown is safe and doing what he loved in defending the country. During high school he always wanted to be a policeman to protect people, she said, but then joined the Army instead.
"He's so humble," she said, "but we're so proud of him."
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.