Who is Ken Brown?

A tribute by Brock Brown

I knew my dad for 43 years. However, I think I got to know him best these last few years. For the longest time my Dad was this commanding presence. There always seemed to be a barrier between us. But a few years ago I saw something in my Dad I have never seen or understood before.

I was watching him on television, on a show called the Valor and the Horror. For the first time in my life I heard my Dad talk about the pain of war and the feeling of emptiness that it brought. For the first time in my life I began to understand the burden of War which my father carried, and for the first time I began to understand my father. For the first time I began to see my father in me and each of my siblings. It caused me to ask who am I as my fathers son. I began to ask questions of myself which helped me to explore and understand my Dad. Let me share some of these questions with you:

Ken Brown

The Dambusters
Ken Brown, 4th from the left

What was it like to raise 4 sons named Terry, Mason, David and Brock?

You see I know what it is like to raise a daughter (I have 2), so I could maybe understand the impact Lesley had on him, and I know what it was like to raise a son (I have one), but what was it like to raise not just four boys, but us in particular. As I explored this I began understand the greatness in my Dad. I realized that if I had had me and my brothers for sons, some one would have died... me by suicide or the sons by strangulation.

What was it like to command Men in War?

To not only ask men to risk their lives for a cause, but to actually get them to do it. As I explored my Dad's role as a leader, I began to realize where my ability to lead came from. What do I do for a living you might ask.... I teach managers how to be leaders. My Dad was my first leadership teacher. I remember the first supervisory job I had. I was 22 years old supervising a bunch of guys twice my age in a jail. Following my Dad's lead it only took me 30 days to have a union grievance filed against me by one of my staff, who felt I needed to be more sensitive to his needs to sit on his butt all day and do nothing.

Who was my dad as a man?

A few months ago Dad was speaking in Calgary at a Mess dinner celebrating the 78th anniversary of the RCAF. As the military band played the regimental songs of each service, members who served or were serving would stand and at the end of their song drink a toast. When the air force service song started to play, everyone who stood, stood up on their chairs. As Dad was sitting at the head table, I leaned across to his good friend Hal Wyatt and asked what was the significance of standing on chairs. Hal said well we're air force you know and we're just a little higher than anyone else. I said to myself , you know, I don't know if that is true, but I think the air force guys believe it is. And I started to see where my sense of honor, pride and duty came from. And where it came from in each of my siblings.

What was it like to be a War Hero?

At that same mess dinner, I saw my Dad as I had never seen him before. Dad did a masterful presentation on the Dams raid, with the focus being a celebration of not only the men who's lives were lost that night, but the unsung hero's who were called the ground crew. He spent all night deflecting attention from him, to those he thought really mattered. At one point during the night a lady in her 70s came up to me and asked if "I was his son" and "if I could make sure she could get his autograph". I asked her (with a grin on my face of course) if she would like my autograph.... I quickly found out what a 70 year old temper mixed with 4 glasses of scotch, 6 glasses of wine and topped of with Port looks like. On the drive back to Red Deer that night I pondered my Dad's struggle to balance humility against the status of Hero. I am in awe to this day of his ability to do that.

I started off by telling you a story of what I learned from watching my Dad on the TV documentary the Valor and the Horror. I would like to finish by relating something special I learned about my Dad through the aftermath of that show being aired. On the show Dad made some remarks which later became controversial regarding Bomber Harris. Making those statements caused my Dad to lose many so called friends. It even caused commotion in the political arena in Ottawa. I talked with Dad a lot about those reactions. I realized that Dad had done his homework before making the statements. I'm not here to debate with those who might say my father was wrong, but to tell you how proud I was that my Dad stood up for what he believed the truth was. I realized how important Integrity was to my Dad.

I was talking to an accountability partner of mine the other day about being a Dad. I told him that next to teaching my children to Love God with all their heart mind and soul, the greatest gift I could pass on to my children was to learn to be a person of Integrity. The only thing I didn't but should have added was "as my Father tried to teach me".

My Dad was not perfect. He had his many flaws, as I do. However, there was a commanding spirit about my Dad which is his legacy in our family. If my brothers and sister and I along with our spouses can harness that legacy with a passion for God and pass it on to our children, they will be great and powerful leaders in what ever they choose to do. And people throughout the world will continue to experience the Brown version of Honor, Pride, Duty and Integrity.

Thank you Dad for your legacy.

Ken Brown

Meeting King George VI
Ken Brown, Left