The Long Gray Line

A larger-than-life student at Sebastian River High School grew into his potential in the United States Army.
President George W. Bush shakes Richard “Ricky” Brown’s hand at his graduation from West Point in 2002, an honor reserved only for students at the top of their class. As the first class to graduate following September 11, 2001, a fellow graduate says they “were being commissioned into an army at war. That’s not something we anticipated going in as freshmen.” In 2004 Ricky would be stationed in Iraq for the first of two tours in a war zone.

In his last moments as a true civilian, Richard Brown stood on the football field at the United States Military Academy at West Point among a throng of incoming freshmen and their proud parents. It was August of 1998, and Ricky, as he was known to his loved ones beside him and back home in Sebastian, Fla., had one minute to say goodbye to his family – and his old identity.

“Then we walked across the middle of the field, down the 50-yard line, as our parents watched us walk under the bleachers,” he recalls. “Once we got under the stadium seating, it was a completely different ballgame. There were people immediately in our faces, yelling at us. We were now part of The Long Gray Line.”

Exactly six years later, First Lieutenant Brown would lead a platoon of 39 soldiers in Ar Ramadi, Iraq in Anbar Province, one of the most dangerous battlegrounds during one of the most dangerous periods of the Iraq War. It was then that he began to understand how his “under-the-stairs” initiation would serve him and ultimately his country.

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