Los Angeles County







Book a time
Contact Details


POSTED ON 6.9.2011
POSTED BY: Bill Johnston

A Great Friend in Nam

Tanner Brown was one of my Great Friends in this war the grunts called Nam. I have always remembered Tanner; he was not a guy anyone who ever met him would easily forget. I first met Tanner on our Battalion’s forward firebase along with the five other members of my squad 24 October 1969. Arriving that afternoon to our firebase I am sure I was apprehensive and concerned and was probably just about but not quite scared nearly to death knowing where I found myself, even though actually at the time I did not know where I was at all. Tanner and the other members of my squad soon calmed my fears and made me feel right at home. We were at our firebase perimeter’s bunkers and were assigned to defend our firebase. The next day our company would return to The Bush. Tanner and the other members of my squad taught me just what I needed to know to survive out in the boonies or The Bush as the grunts called it and calmed my fears those first few days in this war. ‘Things would not be bad just follow your fellow men and do as you are told’, I was told and everything would be fine.

My squad, the third squad was always a small squad while I was in this country. I learned quickly that this little squad of grunts was to be my family in Nam. There was no one else who you would be so close to while you fought in this war, that especially being the case for the grunts. So it was to be throughout my tour. We would all be closer than brothers living and surviving as we did in that country. This by itself would make it very difficult to survive and live with after losing a friend in this war. It was always difficult seeing your fellow men wounded and killed in this country it was horrible for the men who survived. That was something that we all had been trained to do but living through those fights and battles was not something someone could actually prepare you to face. Our hearts were bleeding whenever we lost anyone in this war. Everyone knew each other; we were around each other each day we were in this war. Our hearts were certainly bleeding when we lost Tanner Martin Brown. This bleeding has never stopped. He was a terrific guy to know, I have never forgotten Tanner.

Tanner Brown was a great friend to many other grunts in my company. Before I arrived to our squad, I do not believe I had ever heard of anyone called Tanner, but this guy was just a great and fun guy to be around. Tanner Brown was from Van Nuys California. I remember Tanner talked about his life in California, the Pacific Ocean, and west coast living generally many times while we were around our foxholes in The Bush or at our bunkers on San Juan. Tanner Brown was our squad’s West Coast California Guy. He would be many times educating his squad members about what was so different about growing up and living in California. The hippie movement was going on at the time back home and especially in California and Tanner seems to have known many things about these people. He would many times be talking about this movement of ‘free love’ and ‘free thinking’ and we all got a kick out of it. I have always felt myself fortunate and have always been proud that Tanner Martin Brown was a member of my squad; he taught me many things and along with the other members of the third squad we would be friends from the day we first met. Truly, we all were blessed just having known this guy.

I remember seeing Tanner with a pen and paper in his hands many times, probably writing home to family and friends back in the Golden State or perhaps he was writing about this war, and just anything that we had been doing on any day in Nam. I have a photo of Tanner writing such a letter. I will attempt to post this photo. Thank God for the camera. I never knew exactly what Tanner was writing, all of the grunts would write home with everyone hoping for a letter from our loved ones whenever our resupply choppers flew to our NDP site late in the evenings, but Tanner did seem to write a lot.

Tanner loved to discuss this war and just what we were doing and why and how we had gotten involved in the war we were fighting. Tanner along with another friend who was also killed in this war, Terry Hood would usually lead any discussion my squad would have on this and many other things. Terry Hood was the philosopher in our squad having studied philosophy before being drafted. Both of these friends would have a profound influence on my thinking and my life during and after this war. Tanner would usually hold onto his positions he was not easily swayed from his thoughts though most of us always agreed with whatever we happen to be discussing at the moment. Each grunt in my squad would have our say about whatever the discussion was on at the time with each of us learning from each other as each of us expressed our views. We usually had these discussions late in the evenings around our foxholes while playing Hearts before beginning our first guard duty at our NDP site many times while we were in The Bush.

This friend was about my height maybe six foot tall. Tanner wore his hair short but I can easily see Tanner with long hair which it seems he said he had before being drafted. Tanner had a chest full of hair that showed up easily, and would like many men in Nam have a mustache, but Tanner’s mustache would extend out into his face more than most guys I would see in Nam. He was an easy going guy who got along with everyone most especially the men in the First Platoon. Tanner stood out in any group of grunts. He was not loud nor did he call attention to himself, I believe it was just the kind of guy Tanner was that radiated men to him. Tanner was a quiet guy, he did not seek attention, he was not gung ho, but Tanner was always dependable, that was something everyone in The Bush needed from his fellow men if we were to survive, and Tanner was that.

Tanner was a member of the third squad, First Platoon of Bravo 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry, The Old Guard as it was known, when I originally arrived to our company. At the time, Bravo Company was on our forward firebase maybe ten miles from our Brigade and Battalion base in Duc Pho. The firebase was called San Juan Hill or just The Hill by the grunts and was situated out in what was called the boonies all by itself. The only way you could get to our firebase was by helicopters. Bravo Company would be on our firebase only when we were pulled out of The Bush for a few days of rest and a few Army details to pull. It was always nice for the grunts getting out of The Bush especially getting to San Juan Hill. The grunts knew we would have details to pull when we returned to The Hill, KP, picking up trash, repair and install concertina wire around our perimeter and repairing our bunkers but our firebase was much better than humping The Bush. All of the grunts certainly knew that. The grunts all knew San Juan Hill was much more secure than anywhere we found ourselves out in The Bush and we all knew we would have plenty to eat while on our firebase. We probably would have time to have a little water run over our bodies for a quick bath at some time while on San Juan. Tanner was like every grunt he would always be looking forward to getting a little clean while on our firebase. Getting to The Hill and out of The Bush was something the grunts always looked forward to while we were out in the boonies, out where we all knew death could happen at any moment.

I remember Tanner and the men in my squad always like to go to our little theater. This I found out was just a small outdoor screen located on San Juan where some old Hollywood flicks could be enjoyed by the men on The Hill beginning at dusk. We all enjoyed getting away from this war whenever we had the chance and the outdoor theater on San Juan did offer that to the men. We spent most of our time in the boonies hunting the enemy we were fighting.

Our squad was always small, with only six men in this squad when I initially arrived to our company and would hardly ever be much bigger at any time. Arriving to our firebase each of our company infantry squads had two strong bunkers to defend along the perimeter of San Juan. Always being a small squad each member of our squad always had many hours of guard to pull whether we were in The Bush or on San Juan. Guard was a very necessary duty we had in this war yet I never heard a grunt complain about the hours we pulled each night. We all knew this was for our fellow men and our own survival in this war.

On 23 November 1969, our company was in The Bush when our choppers picked us up early in the morning. Just what was happening I did not know, I probably thought we were going on another combat assault. We were carried to our Division Headquarters in Chu Lai and were starting a Stand Down. I had been in The Bush for just about one month and at the time I did not know what this stand down was but Tanner and the other members of my squad soon set me straight about just what we would be doing. Not much, a little rest, a little too much to eat and perhaps a little too much to drink. We were getting away from this war for three days.

I have never forgotten this Stand Down my first where I had help stopped our company from attacking a NCO Club on our first night away from this war. This is one of the most remembered events in this war for me. It was not what I had done on this Stand Down that made it so remembered by me; it was what my friend Tanner Brown said about what I had done. Two days later, our little Stand Down was over and the grunts returned to San Juan Hill. I remember the guys in my squad was asking me why I had done what I had done that first night away from this war. I still remember Tanner standing up and saying something that I have never forgotten about this war while my squad members were just lounging outside our bunkers. The most remembered thing about this Stand Down was Tanner saying that my pacific actions that night showed my true feelings especially with me being blasted at the time I had done this. And I guess Tanner was right about that as well as many other things. What Tanner said about this little affair is something I have never forgotten about Tanner or this war. I and many other men have truly missed this friend. It has taken a long time to come to grips with this lost and it pains me every time I think of losing my friend Tanner Brown.

We were the infantry; we were the grunts who were sent to fight this war. When we when out to The Bush we went usually for three to four weeks. This was not a one or two day excursion into The Bush. The missions my company went on lasted much longer than that. What we needed to survive in this war we carried on our backs in a rucksack. Humping as we did every day in this war especially up and down those mountains in Nam our rucks were always heavy. After a long day of humping, the grunts were exhausted. This was not an easy job we had been sent to do; it was a grueling, exhausting, and terrifying time in The Bush. We were always mindful our enemy was around us. After a short rest the grunts were all revitalized and would be able to do just about anything required of us in The Bush.

Arriving at our NDP site each platoon in our company would send a patrol out to the front of our positions. Returning we would all begin our foxholes. Our foxhole positions would be pointed out by our Platoon Leader or platoon sergeant and each grunt would each take turns digging the most important survival item we would ever have in The Bush, our foxholes. I remember Tanner down in that hole digging as hard as he could with sweat pouring off as he dug. We were always attempting to get them as deep as possible, but many times even digging what seems like several hours especially in “those mountains” our foxhole would be no hole at all. The ground we found ourselves digging in was too often was just too hard, rocks, roots and hard soil which all but made them just about impossible to get very deep with our entrenching tools. Whatever size hole we were able to dig would be the best survival item we had in The Bush besides the steel pot each grunt kept close to him. Our company was always in The Bush and that is where we stay during our tour in “that country”.

Tanner became our platoon sergeant’s RTO man in early December 1969 leaving our squad for the platoon’s CP just days before our Iron Mountain Expedition. I found out getting to this war that our Battalion’s area of operations was in the mountains west of Duc Pho and around our firebase. My company climbed those mountains nearly every day I was in “that country”. Becoming a RTO man, Tanner had added even more weight on his shoulders. This radio added pounds to your back but I never heard Tanner complain about carrying this very necessary piece of equipment. It was always a backbreaking job climbing those mountains in Nam with the radios our RTO men carrying just adding more weight to their backs and shoulders.

I remember several times Tanner was throwing a Frisbee around our NDP late in the evenings if we had arrived to our NDP site earlier than normal. This seems to have happened after we had left The Hill the day after Christmas 1969 when someone, I believe George Bandil a member of our squad received a Frisbee in his Christmas package while on San Juan. At that time, you could see two or three grunts joining in for a few minutes of fun in The Bush. This did not last long but it did give us a little diversion and offer a little time away from this war. What we did in The Bush for entertainment and a chance to take our minds off what was happening around us was play cards games. Tanner loved to join the other members of our squad playing Hearts around our foxhole whenever we had the time. We did not play for money in The Bush that would have to wait for our next Stand Down where we could play poker games even at night under such things as electric lights something we certainly did not have in The Bush.

Tanner Brown was one of my Best Friends in Nam. I only had the privilege to know Tanner for a short time just over two months, but he has had a tremendous effect on my life. I survived the remainder of my tour knowing I had lost a very valuable friend in this war. A very short time to know anyone, yet that short time established a friendship that has always remained. Tanner was not a guy you could easily forget once meeting this guy and I have never forgotten this friend. Everybody who knew Tanner loved this guy.

I know Tanner you are in a much better place today but I am always sad and tears flow down my face when I think of you and the other friends killed in this war. The tears I shed are nothing compare to what you gave in this war. I do not mind shedding them in the least bit, they are nothing but tears of sorrow; they drop from my eyes easily knowing I lost a very valuable person, a very valuable friend. When you and the others left us that night, I thought of your family back home who did not know that they had already lost their son. We lost many cherish friends that terrible night. It was more than terrible losing all of you on that lonely hilltop close to the South China Sea. I wish I could have done something to help, I felt their pain, I felt their lost, I felt the emptiness that came upon us all.

When you left us we all were sadden, we were heartbroken losing you and other friend that terrible night in Nam. We could not say good-bye; things went so fast, life left you and others too fast. Minutes before you were all joy, we had no worries besides this war. This war took you and too many other men. Gone in an instant, never to be seen again by your friends. We did not forget, we mourned you and other men killed that night. There was not much we could do except continue fighting, that we did. Life is always short; your friendship, your life slipped away from you in Nam much too quickly. You lived a short life, you lived for joy, and you left a big void in too many hearts the night you left. Know Tanner that the friends you left behind have not forgotten you. No one could ask for a better friend than you. Whatever sorrow I feel, whatever amount of tears, which have flowed down my face over the years, is nothing compared to what you gave that faithful day, your life.

Thanks, Tanner for your friendship, your kind disposition, your smile, your easy going way, the wisdom you showed and the life you lived. Thanks for the example you gave to others and me. Thanks Tanner for helping to teach me what a grunt needed to know in this war to survive and many other things. Tanner was a great guy, a kind guy, a giving friend, a guy who spoke what he believes but let everyone have his say. Tanner Brown was always a very nice guy and fun guy to be around. Everyone who knew this guy loved this guy, I and many other certainly did. Tanner Brown was a Great Soldier killed in this war doing what his country had asked him to do he could do no more. Tanner was an example to all of the men in our company. He certainly was to me. I know that I am a much better person today from having known this friend in this war. Tanner Brown was a great guy, and a great friend to many guys. I have never forgotten our West Coast California Guy. I pray to God that you Rest in Peace Tanner and that God will always be with you.
read more read less
POSTED ON 11.15.2010
POSTED BY: Robert Sage

We Remember

Tanner is buried at Eternal Valley Cemetery in Newhall,CA. BSM PH
read more read less
POSTED ON 6.28.2010

Los Angeles County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway

A portion of Sepulveda Boulevard/State Highway Route 1 in El Segundo near Los Angeles International Airport has been dedicated to the residents of Los Angeles County who served in Vietnam. This section of highway is now designated the Los Angeles County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. Adopted by the California State Legislature in 2000, the highway honors the more than 350,000 California veterans who served in the Vietnam War, including the 5,822 killed or missing in action. Los Angeles County has the largest number of Vietnam veterans in California and 1,857 of its residents were killed or missing in action during that war. This memorial corridor provides a fitting and proper way for the residents of Los Angeles County to express their gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices these Vietnam veterans have made for their country.
read more read less
POSTED ON 4.5.2010

Thank you.

I hope others appreciate you giving your life as much as I do. It was the ultimate sacrifice and you shall always be remembered in the hearts of all.
read more read less
POSTED ON 1.22.2006

Tanner ~ My brother Frankie's friend

My brother died in the Viet Nam war with Tanner Brown. I remember hearing Tanner's name mentioned often. My brother, Frank Dunsmore and Tanner were great friends. I know my brother loved Tanner as his friend. They died together serving our country. They are hero's along with all of the others who gave their lives for our great country. We've experienced a great loss and they are sorely missed!!!
read more read less