JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
“Since I began working here, I have felt like I am a part of something bigger and I was doing something to help people,” said Louise Brown, 59th Medical Wing director of protocol. “I’ve stayed so long, because I really enjoy what I’ve been doing.”
Brown is retiring from civil service after 37 years. Her career began 57 years ago when she volunteered to work for the American Red Cross through the Service to Military Hospitals program.
“I originally heard about the program through a sorority sister of mine,” said Brown. “When I went to interview, it was for the Red Cross Donut Dollies, who served the abled bodied soldiers in Vietnam. The interviewer told me they needed a longer term position filled in the medical program.”
Brown served the Red Cross for nearly five years, which included a tour to Vietnam.
“I started my tour in Saigon, and I have a photo of me outside in fatigues just days before the Tet Offensive launched,” said Brown. “We didn’t stand around outside much after that. Then almost half way through my tour, I was told they needed someone in Cu Chi, so that’s where I went.”
During her time with the American Red Cross, Brown met her husband who was serving as a fighter pilot for the U.S. Air Force.
“When I first met my husband, he was about to ship off for his first tour in Vietnam,” said Brown. “We had a long distance romance while we were deployed, and got married when we came back in 1968. After we married, I left the Red Cross to support my husband’s career.”
The Browns were married for almost nine years before he was killed in a plane crash.
“After the death of my husband, I never got remarried, because he was the love of my life,” said Brown. “Since I never remarried, I have been able to stay in one place and dedicate my life to my work.
Brown’s husband, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, was buried in the Academy cemetery.
“It turned out the lady who had been serving as the cadet wing hostess, as they called their social director position, had retired,” said Brown. “The officer assisting with my husband’s funeral was one I knew fairly well, and he told me to apply for the position.”
Brown served as the cadet wing hostess for nearly nine years before taking a break from the military.
“My time at the academy was special for me,” said Brown. “We taught the cadets to cook and dance, hosted balls, and worked with distinguished visitors, but there came a time I knew I needed to move on. At that time, a friend of mine offered me a position to work for him at the university, so I worked there for six years.”
Brown returned to her roots after applying to work at Wilford Hall Medical Center in 1992. She has since spent the last 29 years serving the 59th Medical Wing as the director of protocol.
“I have loved every minute of my time here,” said Brown. “I have been able to see miracles happen, from the development of [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation] to the first conjoined twins separated in the Department of Defense. I have seen so many things over the years that have been heartwarming to know I am a part of making someone’s life better.”
Before retiring, Brown left words of encouragement to those who still serve in the 59th MDW.
“Remember, it is our job to give the best possible care to our patients,” said Brown. “We owe it to them to be compassionate and treat them with care and respect. Create an atmosphere that makes patients want to be and receive care here. Do your best for those you serve.”