DVIDS – News – Meet the Browns: The story of an East St. Louis family’s Success, Dedication to Corps, Community

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (March 25, 2021) – What do a pastor, band director, retired Marine, and senior advisor to a Marine general have in common? They are all family members from East St. Louis, Illinois.

Rewind 33 years to the summer of 1988. Carlos Brown and Cortez Brown, the youngest high school graduates from East St. Louis Lincoln High School, are driving down Interstate 70. In 1979 you drive an Oldsmobile Cutlass from St. Louis to the west of Höchst. Cortez has his bare feet hanging out the window, which may sound quaint, but in less than a month the couple with their heads shaved would be thousands of miles away and wonder what they were getting themselves into.

They weren’t just doing an old road trip. They traveled to Colorado to meet their recruiter, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Mark Brown, Carlos ‘brother, and Cortez’ uncle to enroll with the Marines.

What made the couple choose this path in life? Both Browns were raised by single mothers in East St. Louis. Even though Carlos is Cortez’s uncle, they were only one year old. For the most part, they led normal lives, played sports, and participated in other after-school activities. Mark Brown had been in the Marine Corps for several years by the time the couple graduated from high school, and he visited his family as often as he could.

On these trips back to his hometown, he influenced Carlos and Cortez, who decided to tread the path to achieve the title of marine.

“[Mark] always had something in the bag for us, ”said Carlos Brown. “He always had good advice for us. He always kept his cars clean, he always had his shirts and pants creased, his shoes were shiny, and things that take time. You think this guy can’t be lazy and I don’t want to be either. Whenever he came by, we also tried to be clean. It instilled that kind of thing and as my brother I don’t know if he ever heard me say that, but I wanted to be like that. I wanted. And Cortez and I talked about it. “

Cortez Brown had similar thoughts about what inspired him to pursue the marine title.

“My Uncle Mark’s lifestyle appealed to me,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Cortez Brown, sergeant major of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “I saw what he could about the Marine Corps. I was particularly impressed by his travels; The Marine Corps made it possible for him to travel to Hawaii and numerous other locations. He made a living from the Marine Corps, which enabled him to provide for his family. Looking at his life and what the Marine Corps did for him, I was inspired to follow the same path. ”

Upon arriving in Aurora, Colorado, Carlos and Cortez spent a few weeks with Mark to prepare for recruit training, and they left the buddy program early.

“You should go to [recruit training] on a special day, but the recruiting squad came up to me and said, ‘Staff Sgt. Brown, I need some help,’ said Mark Brown, who now lives in Swansea, Illinois. “Cortez and Carlos helped them. They shipped early when they shouldn’t. “

Cortez and Carlos completed recruit training together, and there they learned to lean on each other for support.

“I honestly think if I hadn’t had Cortez with me, I would probably have cried a hell of a lot, but we were there for each other,” said Carlos. “We created an even more special connection that others would actually bring to us for strength.”

Cortez stated that they could use their personal traits to train recruits.

“Having the same last name, Brown, I fondly remember the drill instructors who referred to us as ‘Big Brown’ (me) and ‘Little Brown’ (Carlos) because of our size and height,” said Cortez. “They said Carlos was the ‘brain’ and I was the ‘muscles’. All of this worked to our advantage as our strengths and weaknesses helped balance out our training experiences. “

In December 1988 they completed their recruit training together. According to Carlos, when they visited East St. Louis after graduating, Ruby Brown, Carlos ‘mother and Cortez’ grandmother, was the first person they visited. Everyone who knew her out of respect called her mother. Both consider women to be positive influences in their lives.

“My mother and two grandmothers Ruby Brown and Narva Sayles are important influences in my life,” said Cortez. “I always joke that my mother, Victoria Brown, was the first drill instructor I had. She taught me how to be self-disciplined, financially responsible, and reliable at a young age. “

Victoria had developed polio at a young age and was not expected to have children. Through all of this, she had four children.

“My sister Vicky did a great job with her kids,” said Carlos. “Because of the inability to use an arm with a limp, one would not know that Sgt. Maj. Brown’s mother watched the fight during the fight and said the hell with it. She will overtake everyone to this day. “

Going home to visit family after recruit training would not be the last trip for either of them. At some point everyone had moved, even Cortez’s younger brother Jason Brown, who serves as the visual arts chair and band director of East St. Louis High School.

Although Jason chose a different path than his uncles and brother, it is no less noble. He spent 25 years in education and is currently a PhD student at Lindenwood University. He emphasized the importance of community and giving back.

“Too often people from the East St. Louis Ward come and forget,” said Jason Brown. “They are forgetting part of their responsibility to come and give something back and to support this foundation in order to continue to build and become stronger. We get our training, our good jobs and go away and forget the people here who still need a lot of support and guidance. When I showed up there was someone I could think of who could help me get there. “Okay, how do you do financial aid? My mom didn’t go to school. I know this person who graduated or whatever, that was it.” There aren’t a lot of people like that today, but I think I see it slowly coming back. “

Jason Brown isn’t the only Brown with a passion for giving back. According to Jason, his grandmother Ruby’s home was a community center when she was a child. At Victoria Brown’s house, all of the childhood children gathered for candy, popsicles, and a barbecue.

When asked about his sister, Mark Brown stated that she is a pillar of strength from which he draws to this day.

Carlos is the pastor of the Word of Life Ministries International Church and the corporate representative of the International Longshoreman’s Association. Mark moved to East St. Louis a year and a half ago after retiring from the United States Postal Service. This was his second retirement, the Marines was his first.

Cortez has served in the Marine Corps for 34 years to date and was recently named chief commander of the Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain, a 33-nation naval partnership that promotes security, stability and prosperity in more than 3.2 million square kilometers of international waters. Although he has no plans to return to St. Louis, he looks forward to more frequent visits in the future.

“While I don’t plan to live in East St. Louis after I retire, I can visit more often on my schedule,” said Cortez Brown. “I will always have an affinity with my hometown because it helped shape who I am today. Also, the majority of my beloved family members still live in this area so I definitely plan to make numerous trips home. “

Sgt. Maj. Brown gave some advice to young people who do not know what to do with their lives.

“I would tell all youngsters, especially those in East St. Louis, that the world is your oyster,” said Cortez Brown. “There are so many options and options for you, whether it’s college, military service, entrepreneurship, or craft. The key is to connect with someone who can help point you in the right direction, just like my Uncle Mark did for me. What is unacceptable is complacency and apathy. When you take a step, there is someone out there ready to help you take the next step. Of course, I believe the Marine Corps is a viable option for someone with the personal drive and mental strength to pursue an enriching career while serving our country. ”

If you or someone you know is interested in exploring career opportunities in the Marine Corps, contact your local Marine recruiter or visit www.Marines.com/STLMarines.

Recording date: 04.09.2021
Release Date: 04.10.2021 08:16
Story ID: 393470
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