I grew-up in Indiana, directly across the street from the Naval Ordnance Plant-Indianapolis. In the forties and fifties there was a Marine Guard detachment at the plant.
I delivered the morning newspaper to the plant's guardhouse and became friendly with the Marines. To tell the truth, I worshipped them. The Marines allowed us kids to play on their regulation baseball fields, helped us start a league, let us play pool on their pool table but drew the line at us taking beer from the beer machine. Yes, I can attest that beer machines existed in the early fifties.
Two of the guards (still) had their war dogs from WW II. One was a
Doberman that never bothered anyone but sure made everyone nervous. The other was a big, wooly, friendly German Shepard called Brownie. His handler was a lieutenant or captain about my dad's age, so he was probably a mustang.
He insisted that he was Brownie's partner, not master. Brownie was essentially "retired" because of his age and injuries. His back end seemed to have different ideas than his front end, so it was kind of difficult for him to walk or run.
Brownie took a liking to us neighborhood kids. He would cross 21st
Street and watch us as would a mother. Sometimes he'd play with us until it was time for him to go on duty. During shift changes the Marines got in the street to conduct traffic in and out of the huge facility. Brownie would lumber across the street to sit at "his post" on the corner, near the fence, guarding his Marines as they worked.
Many times Brownie would accompany me at 0500 on my paper route. He was just like one of the gang. One day while crossing the street Brownie was hit by a car, severely injured and was put down by one of the Marines. I didn't see it but within an hour the entire neighborhood knew. His partner asked us kids to attend Brownie's burial the next day.
We all went across the street at the appointed time. It must have been
summer as some of the Marines wore blues and others their khakis. I don't remember everything. There was a bugle, a flag-folding, and a rifle salute. It was then we learned that Brownie was a Master Sergeant, and had been wounded in war. He was buried and a concrete headstone poured and details hand-written in the wet concrete. At the time, I don't think we kids knew what we were witnessing.
We missed Brownie. His partner left soon afterward. My family moved to another part of town in 1956.
In time I forgot about Brownie. In 1961 I was home on leave, in transit
between NAS Jacksonville headed for El Toro. I ran out of money, so went to the (now) Naval Avionics Facility-Indianapolis to pick up some pay. On a whim I looked and Brownie's grave was still there.
We were in Indianapolis for Thanksgiving weekend 2001, and also to
celebrate my mother's 80th birthday. A couple of months earlier I was
reminded of war dogs by a Leatherneck article and the "Sandy the War Dog" poem. I started wondering about Brownie's grave.
I drove out to the (now) Ratheon facility late in the afternoon the day
after Thanksgiving. I parked near where I recalled the grave to be but
couldn't find it. So I walked around the corner and told the security
guard what I was doing.
He was about my age and I told him the story. He didn't know of any grave and had been a guard there for twenty-five years. But he did know of a big bronze plaque for a dog on another guard house in front of the main entrance. It was a cold, windy day. The guard let me drive the quarter-mile to the main guard house (the plant was closed).
I drove over and walked the 100 yards to the guard house and found the
plaque shown in the picture at the top-right of this page. The damn cold wind made my eyes water.
Semper Fidelis, Canus
Epilogue—I had made the visit to Brownie's plaque simply for my own reasons and was entirely unprepared for what I found. I didn't have a camera and there wasn't time to get to a store to buy one. The guard was getting ready to close the gates until Monday morning, which is when we were due to fly back to California.
I asked my sister, Kristin (who had just planned and pulled off our Mom's birthday party with over 200 guests), to see if she could get a picture of the plaque. She understood.
She contacted Raytheon, made arrangements with Mr. Ken White (security head) to meet him and take a photo. Mr. White was so thrilled "that anyone gave a hoot" that he took a digital picture of the plaque and gave a diskette to Kristin upon her arrival.
She took some other photos and learned that, circa1970, the parking lot adjacent to Brownie's grave had to be enlarged. Brownie's grave was left undisturbed and paved over. The plaque honoring his service was made and installed in a new location.
George Edward Butsch
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Author: Active duty 1960–64. Served in TLC (Thai/Laos/Cambodia) theater as Avionics Chief attached to CAT (Civil Air Transport).
Today he is a high-tech engineering manager. RIP: 8 Mar 2015