“… so you need to sacrifice your time for them,” said Carlton Brown. “Stand for those who stood for you.” His brother, Kameron, military veteran, is one who stood for all of us.
Permian Basin Oil and Gas Magazine recognizes Veterans Day by sharing the story of one of our own. It has been our privilege over the years to interview veterans and to write of their bravery and sacrifice.
This year, we honor a young man who enlisted in the U.S. Army as a teenager in 2007. A dozen years later this still-young man found himself in the Permian Basin oilfield.
Kameron Brown was in his company vehicle Saturday, Aug. 31, on his way to work when a gunman in a stolen U.S. mail van pulled up beside him and took his life. Kameron was only 30 years old.
The tragic circumstances of Kameron’s death and the other victims of the Odessa/Midland mass shooting have been shared around the world. The devastating illogicality of Kameron’s story—surviving the war-torn desert of Afghanistan as a soldier only to die in a friendly desert on American soil—is difficult to comprehend.
One way Carlton Brown has been able to endure this experience—losing his only brother two years his junior—is to view Kameron’s passing through the dual lens of the Brown family’s faith and Kameron’s service. Kameron’s honorable military journey did not end when Kameron came home. Carlton walked alongside his brother during the resulting years of PTSD, becoming Kameron’s advocate in his quest for recovery and peace. Therein lies this year’s Veterans Day story.
“This is Where I am Supposed to be”
Like seniors across the country, Kameron Brown spent a few weekends of his final year in high school visiting college campuses.
“It just didn’t take,” Carlton recalled. “Kameron never really embraced that college scene.” While Kameron kept the family laughing with his words and antics, he was also reserved in nature.
In April of 2007 at age 18, Kameron told his family he wanted to join the Army. The United States had a significant military presence in Afghanistan at the time, and Kameron’s family was well aware of the potential danger.
Carlton asked Kameron, “Are you sure?”
“This is where I am supposed to be,” he replied.
As Kameron’s friends were headed to college, Kameron was preparing to leave for boot camp at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga. When it came time to send Kameron off, the close-knit Brown family joined for a special dinner. Before the evening ended, they all stood up, lifted their hands toward the sky, and prayed that Kameron would return home safely.
After his initial training, Kameron was sent to Afghanistan. He communicated with his mother through letters.
“It was constant battle,” Carlton described. At one point during Kameron’s first tour, he wasn’t sure he would make it home alive. Kameron, a turret gunner, was on a mission when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb. A piece of shrapnel shot through the windshield and instantly killed the soldier sitting next to Kameron.
The fatal injury that took Kameron’s comrade was emotionally devastating, Carlton conveyed, and too graphic to describe. Following the explosion, a full-on battle ensued. When the dust settled, Kameron and the driver hunkered down with their fallen friend beside them and waited for backup to arrive.
Kameron came home on leave, shared more of his experiences, and insisted on taking family photos in case he did not make it home next time. His three-and-a-half years of military service included battles in Baghdad and Kuwait before he was medically discharged.
While in high school, Kameron suffered an elbow injury during football season. Despite surgery, he was not able to fully extend his arm. In fact, that was part of the reason the Army assigned Kameron as a turret gunner, as the distance to the trigger was easier to navigate. However, Kameron’s elbow continued to cause problems, and the Army sent him home for surgery. This second procedure caused additional complications, and Kameron was offered a medical discharge.
Upon returning home Kameron moved in with Carlton, who had graduated from college. Kameron took odd jobs and tried to assimilate back into civilian life.
Some three years later, Carlton began to suspect that his brother was dealing with PTSD.
“He saw a lot of people die,” Carlton recounted. “He told me the things they had to do. How you couldn’t really trust anyone. How at times, they had to shoot anything that moved.
“It was hard for him to cope with everything, to be normal again with all of the trauma he had experienced,” Carlton recalled.
The Brown family offered their unconditional love and support. However, Kameron continued to struggle and began to self-medicate.
Refusing to allow his brother to spiral downward, Carlton became Kameron’s treatment advocate, making personal visits to Veterans Affairs to find help for his brother.
Kameron agreed to see a psychiatrist, and slowly but surely with professional help and family support, he began to recover. Kameron’s mother, Mary Brown, along with older sister Shana Brown; aunt and uncle Ronni and Teresa Hogan; best friend Will Morgan, who was like another brother; close cousin Brittany Beauchamp; and Carlton were among those who offered their continual encouragement.
“He never gave up on himself,” Carlton emphasized. “His family never gave up on him.” He persevered and found personal peace.
At this point, Kameron felt he was ready to permanently re-enter the workforce. After discussing his options with Carlton, Kameron decided to visit the Permian Basin oilfield.
“Go show your face!” Carlton urged. “They will see you cared enough to drive four hours (from Brownwood to Odessa)!”
Kameron came home “super excited” and told his family he landed a job at Standard Safety & Supply in Odessa.
Carlton, who works in renewable energy selling solar panels, had relocated to California, but he kept his Brownwood home for his little brother. While in the oilfield Kameron lived in a man camp, but Carlton made sure Kameron knew he could come and stay in their home at any time.
The Brown family is beyond proud of Kameron’s military service. In fact, the family treated Veterans Day like a birthday, gathering for a special barbecue to thank their Kameron for his service.
Of course, no one imagined this Veterans Day would be so different.
The tragic circumstances that killed seven people and injured 25 others unfolded over days as the nation observed in horror. Kameron had only been working in the oilfield about six months when the shooting occurred.
While Kameron will always be on the heartbreaking list of lives lost that day, it is also important to recognize Kameron for how he lived.
Kameron Brown volunteered, as a teenager, to enlist in the U.S. Army during a time of conflict. He persevered not only on the battlefield, but in the emotional aftermath back home.
Walking the path from PTSD to peace, brother alongside brother, has been a powerful memory for Carlton.
“My family has a very strong relationship with God,” Carlton continued. This faith and the firsthand knowledge that Kameron had prevailed, that he had found peace before his passing, has helped carry Carlton during the last few months.
As the nation prepares to honor its veterans on Nov. 11, Carlton offered the following message to families of those who are struggling with their wartime experience: “Never give up on them,” he urged. “You may not be able to gauge the severity of PTSD. You may not know the triggers. Don’t let them give up. Always let them know you are there.
“They sacrificed for you, so you need to sacrifice your time for them,” Carlton continued. “Stand for those who stood for you.”
As Carlton and Kameron learned, you can overcome. Peace is possible.
By Julie Anderson