KENNEBUNK, Maine — More than 44 years after his death, Terry Drown was honored by the state of Maine for the courage that cost him his life.
Terry F. Drown, who was born in York County on Oct. 24, 1944, died in Quang, Ngai, Vietnam on June 11, 1969, while serving in the U.S. Army as a SP4.
Drown’s closest surviving family member, his sister Betsy Drown-Chadbourne of Arundel, received his Maine Gold Star Medal of Honor Award.
“My parents would have been honored, I’m sure. My mom cherished his other medals and had them in a case right over her bed. I am happy to see Terry and the other vets that received this medal be recognized by the State of Maine for their service,” Drown-Chadbourne said.
Although the Drown family received Terry Drown’s national medals several years ago, the Maine medals and award represent recognition on the local level. The Maine Gold Star Medal is a fairly recent award. According to the Maine Bureau of Veteran’s Services, Maine’s Gold Star Recognition program began in 2006.
Jeff McCulloh of Kennebunk helped with the designing and planning of the Maine Gold Star Medal award.
“Originally the medals were to be for Maine veterans and their families of recent wars, but many VFW vets wrote in asking when they could get their medal, so they broadened the award to all Maine veterans in wars since WWII,” he said.
The Drown family is using Terry Drown’s recently acquired Maine Gold Star Medal award as a way to honor him and pay tribute to him once again, to ensure that his memory is always kept alive and well.
Terry Drown’s cousin, Judie Drown Martel of Kennebunk, remembers him fondly, just like it was yesterday.
“I saw him as a wise man and my other big brother. His musical abilities, his artistic excellence, his love of learning and more always drew me to him,” Drown Martel said. “When he left for Vietnam, he had adopted a teeny little kitten that sat on his tall shoulder and went everywhere he went — it was a priceless sight.”
Drown was a gifted, three-sport, record-holding high school athlete. He loved music and played in a band and recorded and released a record. He was also an artist, specializing in charcoal work, and an avid reader.
“Terry was as solid a citizen as there was during his high school years. He was a fierce competitor on the fields of play, always working on his game, or in track, his events. He had a wonderful, dry sense of humor, one seen in the dad and uncles, as well. He never took anyone for granted,” said Allan Evelyn, Drown’s longtime friend and KHS classmate. “He was confident in himself, but never boastful. He was the tallest in his class, 6 feet 6 inches tall, which gave him certain advantages in his athletic endeavors. He was an outstanding high jumper in track and won the state championship in our classification. As a football player, he made an imposing sight as both an offensive and a defensive end.”
“He worked every day after school as a mechanic, did his homework, went to the Port gym and practiced into the night, and would start the next day over again. That was a lot of work for a high school boy,” Drown Martel said.
Drown had planned to come home to Kennebunk and teach history and coach sports after graduating from college at the University of Maine. When that time came, he strayed from those plans when he learned that he qualified for officer’s training school, which required four years of service in the Army.
“He wanted to shorten his time and do two years instead. We begged and pleaded with him to not let them draft him, but he knew that would only be two years instead of four. Everyone in town begged him not to go with the draft but he could not be swayed,” Drown Martel said.
While serving in the military, Drown showed the same tenacity he was known for on the sports field, always going above and beyond what was asked of him.
Bob Espada served with Drown in Vietnam.
“We came in-country together, the same unit. He volunteered for the dangerous missions, I did not. Drown was an excellent example of a decent human being … he felt some obligation to take the most difficult head-on. I wish I could have been half as courageous,” Espada said.
“The last time I saw Terry was Jan. 1, 1969,” Evelyn said. “I had just returned home from duty in Vietnam with my squadron. We were staying at Goose Rocks Beach with friends, and they invited a number of friends to a small New Year’s Eve party. It did not occur to me that I would never see him again after that.”
A memorial shadow box case with Drown’s senior high school picture and some of his athletic awards is on display in the lobby at Kennebunk High School. Terry F. Drown’s name can be found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., on panel row 22W, line 20. He is buried at Arundel Cemetery in Kennebunkport next to the First Congregational Church on North Street.
“The town donated the triangle of land across from the church to Terry’s family for a monument that is on there now,” Drown Martel said.