The following feature story appeared in the Army Football Game Day program versus Hawai'i on Sept. 11, 2010, and was written by Tracy Nelson.
They are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters. They are sitting amongst you at this very moment at Michie Stadium. They are those individuals who boldly put their lives on the line every day to guard and protect the man or woman next to them. They are firefighters, policemen and women, first responders, EMTs, doctors, nurses, teachers and so forth.
As Michie Stadium salutes heroes during this afternoon’s home opener, sophomore slot back Malcolm Brown will have to look no further than Section 15 for the smile of a proud father watching his son play the game he loves. More than that, Brown’s father is proud of a son who chose to serve just as he did for more than 20 years in the New York City Fire Department.
More than 10,000 New Yorkers can call themselves FDNY and spend their careers protecting the lives of others. Listed among the core values of the department are service, bravery, safety, honor, dedication and preparedness. Brown says his father, Roscoe, held all of those values in high regard and still does after retiring as a lieutenant a year and a half ago.
“His bravery and willingness to serve inspired me to come to West Point,” Brown said. “He really wanted me to come here and now he brags back home about what I’m doing. When I ask for advice, he just tells me to remain strong, stay motivated and keep pushing. That’s what he did during his entire career. He never quit, and I never let that go unnoticed. A lot of what he taught me was by example.”
Brown remembers the late nights when his dad would come home exhausted from working an all-night but still have time for his children and family.
Not unlike the military, fire and police departments pride themselves in looking out for one another. It’s the simple mantra that your unit is like a family and no family members will be left behind. They are your brothers and sisters and you treat one another as so. When Roscoe switched units in 2000, he remained close with his colleagues even though he was not with them during day-to-day operations.
Fast forward to Sept. 11, 2001. It’s a day that Americans will never forget. The FDNY deployed over 200 units to the World Trade Center site, where the massive 110-floor steel-frame building no longer existed. Two hijacked plans, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were pummeled into the Twin Towers within a half hour of one another. One of those units deployed was that which Roscoe Brown reported to just a year earlier.
“My dad switched units a year before the Sept. 11 attacks,” his son recalled. “His old unit responded to the crashes and not a single one of them came out alive. All of his friends died that day. It scared me to think that he could have easily been one of them.”
In the days and years following one of the most tragic events in our nation’s history, Roscoe reported to work at Ground Zero, constantly reminded of those that they lost.
"Watching him inspired me a lot,” the younger Brown said. “He would come back really late at night from cleaning up the mess at Ground Zero. It was amazing how much determination he had every day to go back there. To him, he was doing his job serving the city and honoring his old unit.”
When it came time for Brown to pick a college, the Bay Shore, N.Y., native chose West Point. With a year of football under his belt, he returned to the starting lineup for the Black Knights’ opener at Eastern Michigan last Saturday. He totaled 10 carries for 74 yards in Army’s 31-27 road victory. Today, Brown will take the field with his father in the stands and play for the same victorious result. Brown lined up with the lead cast in five games as a rookie and made a positive impact on a coaching staff that is relying on him to play as a “grizzly veteran,” according to slot backs coach Tucker Waugh.
Playing with maturity and a sense of purpose would only come natural for Brown. After all, he’s spent his life emulating his hero just as so many young children do.
Brown will declare his management major later this semester. With no plans to join the FDNY, Brown will be serving his country upon graduation, protecting the freedom that we hold so dear. That makes him a hero and in that regard, he’s following down a path paved by his own hero no matter what profession he may choose.