ATHENS, PA, USA U.S. Army SPC, COMPANY B, 1ST BATTALION, 109TH INFANTRY, (2 MEF), WILLAMSPORT, PA AR RAMADI, IRAQ 09/28/2005
From kindergarten on, Oliver J. Brown and Brandon Johnson were more like brothers than friends. They played Little League together, graduated from the same high school in 2004, biked and hunted together, and enlisted together. They planned to be each other’s best man.
Brown, 19, of Carbondale, Pa., was killed Sept. 28 in Ramadi when his vehicle came under attack. He was assigned to New Milford.
The news stunned Johnson. “Physically he is OK,” said Lisa Johnson, Brandon’s mother. “Emotionally he is a wreck. ‘I lost my best friend. I lost my brother,’ he told me.”
Brandon’s father, Robert Johnson, remembers when the two signed up for the National Guard.
“Oliver joined and Brandon said, ‘I want to go with you.’ They joined together because they didn’t want to be alone. They even asked the recruiter to make sure they were placed in the same unit.”
Before he died, Brown asked his mother to send him his childhood baseball mitt so he and Johnson could play catch. He wanted it to be a surprise. It was sent before she heard the news. Oliver Brown was a 2004 graduate of Athens Area High School. He was serving with C-Company, 1-109th Infantry near Ramadi, Iraq at the time of his death. His unit is based in New Milford, Susquehanna County. Four others from the unit were also killed Thursday.
Brown was killed when the M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was traveling in was struck by an “improvised explosive device,” the Pennsylvania National Guard in Fort Indiantown Gap reported Friday.
The vehicle was then attacked by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades, setting it on fire. The soldiers were on a routine patrol to secure construction of a railroad bridge when the attack occurred, the Pennsylvania National Guard reported in a press release.
“They were conducting a very important mission that led directly to the neutralization of insurgent activity in our area,” said Colonel John L. Gronski, 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander. “They are true heroes and I am very proud of them. The entire team is saddened by the loss of these brave warriors, but even more resolved to complete the mission.”
“My condolences and deepest sympathies go out to their families, friends, and loved ones,” Maj. Gen Jessica Write, state adjutant general said Friday. “The entire Pennsylvania National Guard family is saddened by the loss of these fine men and brave soldiers.”
Condolences were also offered Friday by Gov. Ed Rendell. Oliver is survived by his mother, Sue Orchard, and father, Bob Brown.