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FAMU grad who died in Orlando remembered as ‘good person, soldier’

Friends, military colleagues praise Antonio Davon Brown

When she heard about the terrorist attack that shook Orlando, Florida, and the entire nation on Sunday, Elizabeth McGhee said she sent a text message to Antonio Davon Brown.

No reply.

Then, she frantically tried to call him. Left a message.

No callback.

Then, McGhee heard the tragic news Monday regarding the diligent and caring young man with whom she often corresponded for nearly a decade.

Brown, 29, was among the 49 victims killed in the early hours of Sunday morning in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

“I just broke down and cried,” McGhee told The Undefeated.

McGhee, 38, has worked in the ROTC’s human resources department at Florida A&M University since 2005. Brown was a cadet at FAMU, graduated in 2008 and earned a commission of second lieutenant.

He majored in criminal justice in school. He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He was deployed to Kuwait for 11 months during the drawdown from Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning awards and medals; he was a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, serving in a human resources support capacity.

Florida A&M offered comfort in a statement that read, in part:

“Our hearts go out to all of the families of those affected in the tragic shooting that took place in Orlando on Sunday morning. The horrendous incident happened not far from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Law School in downtown Orlando . . .

“We are especially saddened by the news that one of the victims was part of the FAMU family . . . Antonio Davon Brown was a criminal justice major from Cocoa Beach, Florida, and a member of ROTC during his time on the Hill.

“In the meantime, the Florida A&M University community stands with the entire Orlando community in the wake of tragedy. Our thoughts, and prayers for peace, are with everyone in central Florida and across this nation.”

McGhee told The Undefeated that Brown was “a good friend, my buddy.” Brown worked as her assistant as a cadet and later for six months after he graduated from FAMU before being assigned to the 642nd Combat Support Group based in Decatur, Georgia. Then he headed to Fort Riley, an Army base located between Manhattan and Junction City in north-central Kansas.

“I just spoke to him last Wednesday [before the terrorist attack],” McGhee said. “We talked for about two hours. He called because he heard one of my co-workers had died; she had been here for about 50 years. He knew we were close. He called to see if I was OK.”

She added: “He told me that he had moved back to the Orlando area. That he was working in the human resources department at Lowe’s.”

People remembered Brown on social media, with condolences being offered from an eclectic group, ranging from New York City mayor Bill de Blasio to CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened by the news that a Soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve was among the victims of the tragic shooting in Orlando over the weekend.

“Capt. Antonio Davon Brown served his country for nearly a decade, stepping forward to do the noblest thing a young person can do, which is to protect others. His service both at home and overseas gave his fellow Americans the security to dream their dreams, and live full lives.

“The attack in Orlando was a cowardly assault on those freedoms, and a reminder of the importance of the mission to which Capt. Brown devoted his life.

“The men and women of the Department of Defense grieve with Capt. Brown’s family and with all of the families and loved ones impacted by this tragedy. We stand with the people of Orlando and the nation’s LGBT community during this difficult time, and stand in determination to defeat ISIL and prevent the spread of its hateful ideology.”

Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning posted on Facebook that Brown’s death made the Orlando terrorist attack “even more personal.”

According to the Army Times, Brown earned a Meritorious Service Medal, two Army Achievement Medals and two Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals, among other awards and decorations.

Thomas L. Battles Jr., grand polemarch of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, said in a statement: “This tragedy has touched home to Kappa, due to the death of Brother Antonio Davon Brown, who was initiated October 13, 2011 at the Kansas City Alumni Chapter.

“I would like to thank our Alma Mater, Florida A&M University and the entire university family across the country for your condolences and heartfelt prayers to our Brother and the other victims. Special acknowledgements to the Divine 9 family for standing with our Brother and the families impacted by this terrorist and this hateful act.”

Brown was murdered when gunman Omar Mir Seddique Mateen opened fire, killing at least 49 and wounding at least 53 others at the Pulse nightclub, a gay bar in Orlando, early Sunday morning.

McGhee said Brown often called her — from job to job, military post to military post. Even from Kuwait and Afghanistan, McGhee said. She referred to him by his last name, “Brown,” which is the military way. “Everywhere Brown went, he called,” McGhee remembered. She said Brown worked in the Adjutant General’s Corps in the Middle East, serving in a human resources administrative capacity that involved record-keeping for army personnel.

In 2013, Brown served as a Troop Program Unit soldier in the St. Louis-based 3rd Battalion, 383rd Regiment, 4th Cavalry Brigade, 85th Support Command. In a statement, Lt. Col. Kevin Dasher, commanding officer in St. Louis, said:

“Captain Tony Brown was a loyal and dutiful United States Army Reserve officer who truly cared about the Soldiers in his charge, faced any and all challenges with a smile on his face, and an unwavering spirit that everyone in our unit cherished. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family in this time of tragedy.”

Lt. Col. Kelvin Scott, who taught ROTC at FAMU from 2005 to 2008, told the Tallahassee Democrat of Brown: “He was a very positive young man. He was a very positive person with a very good sense of humor. He was willing to work very hard to earn his commission.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Elly Bailey, a close friend of Brown’s, had dinner with him Saturday night, and made plans to meet again at a pool on Sunday. She tried to contact him, but Bailey didn’t receive a response.

“He was the most incredible friend,” Bailey told the Sentinel.

Added McGhee: “Brown was always smiling, always happy.

“A good person.”

Gregory Clay is an editor, writer and television/podcast commentator focusing on current news events. Based in Washington D.C., he has worked at Newsday and McClatchy and once gave a speech at a convention for the Texas State Bar Association.