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Max Brown, WWII Marine (Part 2)

Max Brown, in uniform.

Max’s military chapter begins when he is 15, after seeing his brother join the Colorado National Guard! As many brothers did, he thought if it good for his brother it was good for him. His height of 6’4” and build gained by growing up in the mountains near Glenwood Springs and working hard all his life got him immediate acceptance even though he wasn’t old enough to join! He worked hard in the Guard and learned some lessons, but his sense of humor got him in trouble and nearly court martialed! His mother wanted him to finish his schooling, so she ratted him out and he was discharged from the guard!

Max’s heart was really in the war effort and what he saw on the horizon as far as the US getting involved. But “MOM” wanted him to go to college, so he did! When he heard about Pearl Harbor and subsequently the battle at Guadalcanal, he joined the Marine Corps. There was something about the mystic of the Marines and their legendary valor that he was attracted to.

USS Arizona destroyed during attack on Pearl Harbor.

Max graduated San Diego boot camp with honors and soon found himself as “Drill Sgt” at Parris Island! He thoroughly loved that job and working the young men he was preparing for battle. After 18 months he headed back west to learn weaponry, firing and field striping every weapon the Marine Corps could throw at him!

He helped younger men focus, taught them about weapons as he had learned to field strip and clean every weapon the Marine Corps had, helped them with personal matters like family and finances, and even had some time on Maui for fun and games. Those good times landed him in hot water after making an ill-advised dive into shallow waters and injuring his neck. He didn’t think a lot about it at the time, but we’ll discuss that in the next part of his story. His fellow Marines looked up to him, because he was very tall and because his leadership gave them confidence that they could do the job ahead.

USMC Drill Sergeant Max Brown, Paris Island, 1943.

His next duty station was Maui, HA where he was a “Jack of all Trades” including training the troops for battle and fighting wildfires! While in Maui he was injured diving into the water and probably should have been discharged, but this tough Rocky Mountain boy kept on trekking! The next thing he knew he was headed for Iwo Jima and eager to enter the battle. 

Of course, no one knew what to expect, really. He was a replacement Marine on Iwo and didn’t go ashore until the 4th day. He saw the famed raising of the flag from aboard the ship and often talked about that and the number of ships in the water. To him it was beyond imagination and caused him to swell with pride and assurance that he would be okay.

Marines landing on Iwo Jima.

On D-Day+4 he descended the cargo net to the Higgins boat on the way to battle, all the while readying himself for what lye ahead. He was not prepared for what we now know was unimaginable horror with bodies, blood, equipment, etc. floating all around them. The fighting was intense, and Max was wounded, told to report to the beach to go home, and ignored the orders continuing in the battle! When the battle ended, they buried the dead and returned to Maui to be patched up and head on to China.

A few months later, thinking he was heading to China, he learned the war was ended and he was home in time for Christmas! It was a sad homecoming, however as his father greeted him with more than a generous hug and tears. Max learned that his brother Wayne was killed in Italy and was laid to rest there. Wayne’s name is on the Colorado Freedom Memorial wall, and I was with Max and Shirley as they found his name.

Memorials are emotional and essential to the memories and recollections of the sacrifices for our freedoms. Their names will be on bricks at the United States Marine Corps Memorial as well if enough people donate to the effort to remodel the Memorial.

Shirley Gunston

While in the Corps Max wrote a faithfully as possible to his girlfriend from college who had also joined the Marine Corps on her 20th birthday! Shirley Gunston is an entirely other story to follow soon! But their love from the first meeting only deepened with time.

It was time to find her and make her his own in marriage! They loved to tell their story every time they got a chance.

Picture of Paula Sarlls, President of  the USMC Memorial Foundation

Paula Sarlls, President of the USMC Memorial Foundation

Paula Sarlls served in USMC ’67-’71 as an air controller at Quantico, VA MCAS. Paula worked for over 30 years for the VA, IRS, US Customs Service and DHS, and retired 2004 with numerous awards. The programs she created have been used nationally for decades. Her enforcement operations resulted in the seizure of over $1 million in illegal merchandise.

Paula owned two businesses, PS Tax Service and P & T Candles. She is a veterans advocate, President of the Women Marines Association CO-1 and former national President ( ’05 – ’08). She is a member of the Marine Corps League, US Marine Corps Memorial Association, Aurora Defense Council, United Veterans Committee of Colorado, American Legion, and is an Honorary Board member of the Colorado Freedom Memorial Foundation, and Honorary Commander of 140th Wing – Colorado Air National Guard ’15 – ’16.

She was the SW Region and Colorado “Daughters of the American Revolution” Veteran Volunteer of the Year in 2020. She received the Colorado Veteran Volunteer of the Year in 2015 and many other awards including the Civilian Marksmanship Program Patriot Award in 2013.

Paula is the mother of one daughter.

She is a Gold Star widow and sister-in-law.

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Max Brown, Part 3

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Support the USMC Memorial Remodel

The USMC Memorial is dedicated to the memory and service of all Marines, as well as other service members.

Use the links below to buy a brick in one of the Memorial’s five walkways or to donate. All proceeds go towards the Memorial remodel.