The Wall of Faces

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ROBERT RAYMOND BRETT


is honored on Panel 40E, Line 58 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Leave a Remembrance

REMEMBRANCES

  • Father Brett and Communion on Hill 861 at Khe Sanh

    Posted on 6/19/00 - by Dennis Mannion
    Father Brett: It is good to make contact with you after all these years. I somehow, someway, found your nephew Ed Rouse and he and I have communicated. I sent him copies of two letters from a bunch that my mom had saved. In both letters I mention you. One centered on your appearance on Hill 861 fairly early on in the siege and how happy I was to receive my only Communion at Khe Sanh from you (in the CP bunker) and an absolution from all my sins up to that date in my life! I have never forgotten the moment when we met and your link from me to God. I'm sure my mom was pleased to read about that in the letter. (The 2nd letter mentioned the news about your death and how bad many of us on the hill felt.) My mom's out there with you somewhere now. Try to look her up for me and say hi. Her name is Elizabeth Foley, but you probably already know that. I'm returning to Hill 861 this summer, and I plan to make footprints where I did so 32 years ago. I'll be sure to remember you when I stand very close to where we both knelt over three decades ago. Dennis
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  • In Honored Remembrance

    Posted on 5/27/99 - by Michael Robert Patterson Webmaster@ArlingtonCemetery.Com
    From a press report:Thursday, May 27, 1999

    The last time anyone saw the chaplain and his aide alive
    was on an airstrip in Khe Sanh. As they came under
    attack from the North Vietnamese army, they waved off a
    helicopter set to take them away and prepared instead to
    do their jobs.

    For three long months during the Vietnam War, Chaplain
    Robert Brett, 33, and Private First Class Alexander Chin,
    a 23-year-old Marine, had forged a close partnership,
    scrambling through neck-high elephant grass and
    foxholes, dodging bullets and mortar shells as they
    ministered to frightened Marines.

    This time, the lightning-fast rocket attack on the landing
    strip took their lives. And their story might have ended on
    that February day in 1968, in the hilltop trench where
    their mangled bodies were pulled from the shrapnel and
    debris and shipped home.

    But yesterday they were reunited in Arlington National
    Cemetery, buried side by side under a bright sky on
    Chaplain's Hill.

    At the behest of Brett's family and with the permission of
    Chin's relatives, Chin's body was removed from his
    family plot in the town of Princess Anne on Maryland's
    Eastern Shore and reinterred next to the man he vowed
    to serve.

    About 60 relatives, fellow Vietnam veterans and military
    officials gathered for the ceremony. Navy Rear Admiral
    Barry C. Black, deputy chief of chaplains, told Chin's
    family and friends that their Marine was a "spiritual hero."


    Chin, family members say, was deeply religious and, after
    several months of combat, told his commanders in
    Vietnam that he could no longer kill the nemy. Instead of
    a court-martial, relatives said, Chin was given a job
    protecting and assisting Brett.

    "He said, 'I won't take a life, but I'll put my life on the line
    for another,' " Black said, as six Marines held a flag
    above Chin's coffin. "Alexander laid down his life. It was
    love's crowning act."

    Family members embraced and sobbed openly as
    Marines fired a salute in Chin's honor.

    "It's devastating," said Levi Chin, 52, his younger
    brother. "It's like reliving his first funeral all over again.
    But it's an honor that he's here."

    Alexander Chin was in college, studying art, when he
    was drafted. Not long after he arrived in Vietnam, he and
    Brett became a fixture in the trenches, administering first
    aid, comforting Marines on the line and doing
    on-the-spot baptisms.

    "They were always on the battlefield giving last rites and
    dragging the wounded to safer positions," said Larry
    Ballard, who served with the men in the 26th Marine
    Regiment at Khe Sanh. "They were heroes. They placed
    themselves in mortal danger. Both of them."

    Jim Leslie, 58, a former Marine captain who served with
    Brett and Chin, attended yesterday's ceremony and
    remembered Brett for his courage and compassion.

    "Chaplain Brett was always there, no matter if there was
    shooting or not," Leslie said. The experience, he said,
    changed his life. "Some people call it foxhole religion, but
    for many of us, it continued forever. Brett was a
    brave one. No doubt."

    Brett volunteered to go to Vietnam because "he wanted
    to help people in dire situations," said his brother, the
    Rev. Frank Brett of Norris, Tennessee, who also served
    as a chaplain in Vietnam. "My brother went places no one
    thought a chaplain would go. Most people wouldsay,
    'What are you doing in this Khe Sanh mess?' "

    Robert Brett had been in Vietnam for six months when
    he and Chin were killed. Marines who witnessed the
    attack said the two were about to board a helicopter
    when they came under assault. Brett, they said, told the
    chopper to take off without them, allowing another man
    to go instead.

    Several Marines were killed in the attack. At the time,
    family members said, Chin had already received three
    Purple Hearts and was scheduled to return home. He
    was engaged to be married.

    "We had a banner stretched outside the door that said,
    'Welcome Home, Alex,' " recalled one of Chin's sisters,
    Lottie Chin Benyard. "We had saved all his presents from
    Christmas, and we were going to celebrate all over again.

    Then we got the knock at the door telling us he'd been
    killed."

    Benyard said her family first learned of Chin's heroism
    when she was contacted earlier this year by Ballard and
    later by Brett's nephew, Edward Rouse. Three decades
    ago, Brett had been buried at his mother's request in the
    cemetery of the Penndel, Pennsylvania, seminary where
    he received his
    religious training. His mother died in 1980, and last fall,
    Rouse and his family fulfilled their longtime wish to have
    Brett's body moved to Arlington National Cemetery.

    They felt strongly that Chin should be there, too. So
    Rouse hired a private detective, who tracked down
    Chin's relatives in the Baltimore area.

    Chin "knew his duty was to protect the chaplain, and in
    honor of that commitment, I felt it was my duty to bring
    him to Arlington for honors and recognition," Rouse
    said. "A lot of lies have come out about Vietnam
    veterans.

    "This is a story of honor and sacrifice. It would have
    been very easy for them, in the face of all that evil, to give
    up their belief in God and their dedication to duty in the
    face of stress. But neither of them did. I'm proud of both
    of them."
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The Wall of Faces

Brought to you by the organization that built The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Virtual Memorial Wall is dedicated to honoring, remembering and sharing the legacies of all those who died in the Vietnam War. Here you can go beyond the names on The Wall to see the faces, share the stories and read the remembrances posted by friends, neighbors, classmates and family members.

All of these photos will be showcased in The Education Center at The Wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the effort to collect these photos and ensure their faces will never be forgotten, visit www.buildthecenter.org.