By KALEA HALL
Karen Brown Ruberto still cannot believe what has been done to honor her late husband, Army 2nd Lt. Charles Brown Jr.
Kristin O’Neil knows her father, Marine Sgt. James Prommersberger, would be honored by what has been done to remember him.
Both men were remembered Friday for their heroic actions in the Vietnam War, which ultimately took their lives, at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Veterans’ Memorial at Falcon Stadium. The memorial will honor all veterans from the Mahoning Valley.
“I don’t even know what to say. I have been so excited about the whole project and everything and how they are honoring these two guys who deserve it, Brown Ruberto said.
The outdoor Veterans’ Memorial is an Austintown Class of 1962 project, with Jack Kidd and Larry Cadman overseeing the process. Both Kidd and
Cadman were close friends of Brown’s and Prommersberger’s and felt the need to honor them. In order to build the brick memorial, their committee sold pens made of the wood from the Fitch High School gym floor.
The committee also has received donations from Lencyck Masonry Inc. of Youngstown to oversee the monument, Bricklayers Local 8 of Austintown for the construction and Masonry Material Plus of Youngstown for mortar and
concrete block. Youngstown Electrical Supply will donate lighting, and Don Hall Excavating of Youngstown will donate services to grade, level and dig.
The monument will be about 12 feet in length and five feet high. Decorative brick and concrete engraved with “Fitch” from the old Austintown Fitch High School will be a part of the monument.
“Well, it has been about 14 months where we just fundraised and fundraised and fundraised — and it is about time,” Kidd said. “I got excited about seeing the dirt there.”
Seven shovelers, representing the military, the Brown family and the
Prommersberger family, broke ground at the ceremony, with Lt. Col. John Boccieri of the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station leading them. The monument should be complete in four or five weeks, Kidd said.
Before the ground breaking, Kidd spoke about the heroic way in which both Prommersberger and Brown died.
“Those two gentlemen were our classmates, our teammates and our friends, and I get emotional talking about their achievements because that is heroism in its greatest form,” Kidd said.
Prommersberger was in a night firefight against 200 Vietnamese soldiers when he went out to save men, and while saving the last man, he was hit.
“He saved that man’s life, but he gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Kidd said.
O’Neil, who still is a part of the Austintown community as a special-education teacher at the high school, said her father was known for being fearless. O’Neil was only 2 when her father was killed in action.
“My dad was a true Austintown resident in his heart and he would just be so honored,” O’Neil said.
Brown also was in a night firefight that pitted him against 4,000 Vietnamese soldiers.
“With complete disregard for his safety, he ran to the area where the
perimeter had been breached; he picked up a machine gun, and he
started shooting. What he didn’t know at that time was that every man in his platoon was dead.”
Brown killed 200 to 300 Vietnamese soldiers before he was killed.
“He never quit fighting,” Kidd said.
Brown died, leaving his wife and 6-month-old daughter. Ruberto, of
Ellsworth, has kept their daughter, who lives in Virginia, in the loop on the project and said she is excited for it, just like her father would be.
“He would be thrilled [by the monument], but then, he would say he was doing his job,” Ruberto said. “That was the kind of guy he was.”
Prommersberger and Brown received Silver Star and Purple Heart medals for their heroism. Cadman and Kidd are in the process of trying to get the Medal of Honor award for their friends.
Brown also has the Vietnam War Medal of Honor and a Bronze Star.