Dixon Navy Vet on a Mission to Gain Recognition of Fellow Cold War Service Members

US Navy veteran Michael Brown – a long time Dixon resident – is on a mission. His goal is to get full recognition for the services of US military personnel who served between the end of the Vietnam War and the rescue of Granada from a communist coup.
Brown signed up for the Navy on a Delayed Entry program in December, 1976, while he was still in high school. He entered basic training in San Diego, August 30, 1977.
By a quirk in the law, had he not signed up early he would not have been eligible to join the American Legion – of which he is a paid-up Life Member – because he would not have been considered to have served during time of war or conflict.
The US government (and the American Legion) considers the over seven year period from May 7, 1975 (end of Vietnam) to August 24, 1982 (Grenada) as peace-time service. It is up to Congress to determine the dates of eligibility, and for the sake of other veterans Brown wants those dates to include the Cold War gap. Brown notes that time was one of serious danger including military operations that resulted in deaths of American service members.
After his basic training, Brown went through the Navy’s Fireman’s School. He was assigned to the aircraft carrier Nimitz late November 1977 and it was deployed December 1 of that year. That tour included the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic. Then follow intense training for the Nimitz out of Guantanamo Bay (including participation in the movie “Final Countdown.”
In September of 1979 the vessel again was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and was there on station when the US Embassy in Tehran was over-run and American diplomats and embassy personal were taken hostage. Two months later – January 4, 1980 – the Nimitz was sent via a 23 day journey around the Cape of Good Hope to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf where Nimitz relieved the carrier Kitty Hawk.
The Nimitz was under constant surveillance by Russian “trawlers” and even threat from Russian bombers. The Iranians, too, had Mirage jets and Harpoon and Exocete anti-ship missiles. (At one time near Cape Hatteras, Virginia a Russian naval Cruiser trained its guns on the Nimitz.)
On April 24, 1980 the ill-fated Iranian hostage rescue attempt was launched from the Nimitz. Code named “Operation Eagle Claw”, the Delta Force raid launched with eight CH-46 Sea Stallion helicopters – but one over heated and had to return. The remaining seven went on to a rendezvous point in the Iranian dessert where they met up with C-130 transports carrying fuel to refuel the helicopters for the rest of the rescue mission to Tehran. Unfortunately, there was a wind and sand storm – which combined with the prop-wash from the helicopters blinded the pilots during landing. One of the choppers made a hard landing, tilted and struck a C-130 with its rotors and punctured a fuel bladder causing a massive explosion. In the accident, eight men were killed – five on the C-130 and three on the helicopter.
(Even before the accident, the raid had been scrubbed as two of the seven helicopters were inoperable leaving only five to complete the mission – too few to do so successfully.)
Brown notes that even though those deaths were during a military mission, because it was not considered time of war or conflict, they were not considered combat deaths. He contends the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army personnel involved – both in the rescue attempt and during the 1975 to 1982 period – put their lives on the line in defense of America and deserve to be recognized by Congress as serving during time of conflict.
Ironically, the Navy personnel are eligible to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) because the battle groups in the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf were considered Expeditionary Forces. Brown hopes members of Congress and the American Legion nationally will take up his cause and give the earned recognition to those who served.

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