East Tennessee’s Most Distinguished Veterans

RIGHT TO LEFT: Capt. Mark Brogan, Charlie Cordwell, and Homer Rayburn Chapter 356 Military Order of the Purple Heart

Capt. Mark Brogan “survived a suicide bombing in April, 2006 that blew him across an Iraqi marketplace. and killed the man next to him. The blast cost him the hearing in one ear, 60 percent hearing loss in the other ear, a chunk of his brain and half his skull.  Doctors said he’d be a quadriplegic the rest of his life. Brogan’s been proving them wrong ever since”. (Quoted from New Sentinel article by Matt Lakin, March 18, 2013)

Capt. Brogan is honored companion in the Knoxville Chapter Military Order of the World Wars.  He’s travels doing talks about managing hearing loss and his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He’s from Kingsport and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelors degree in political science.

Charlie Cordwell was a farm boy from Clinton, Tennessee.  Along with 8 other brothers and sisters, he raised tobacco and slopped the hogs.  May, 1968 he volunteered for the draft and soon wound up assigned to the Americal Division, 17th Cav and 198th Light Infantry.  He was a Staff Sergeant when he approached a hooch which, unknown to him, held 5 NVA soldiers with AK 47 assault rifles.  His cohort, Big Zeke, shot one, who rushed out with an M-79 grenade launcher.  His unit also responded tossing grenades into their midst killing all.  His unit was conducting search and destroy operations with Sheridan Tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers.  He was firing his 50 caliber machine gun when a grenade exploded under an opening to his vechile.  He was hit from chest to belly button.  He spent from June, 1969 to June, 1970 close to the old demilitarized zone, which was supposed to be the boundary between North and South Vietnam. It was a militarily a very “hot’ area.  Charlie the current commander of MOP Chapter 356.  Big Zeke was an African American.

Homer Rayburn earned TWO Purple Hearts in Korea.  He recalls both brushes with death at age 86.  While he now lives in Knoxville, he was drafted from his original home in Kentucky, Christmas, 1950.  When he joined the fight to recapture Korea from the Pusan peninsula, he 17th Regimental Combat Team of the 7th Infantry Division.  He was serving with that unit, when they spent two days taking the infamous mountain named “Old Baldi” from the Chinese.   Homer was badly wounded by a grenade explosion and had difficulty breathing.  Despite his wounds, he had to walk one mile to an aide station operated by an Army Doctor. Before being drafted, like Charlie Cordwell, Homer milked cows and slopped hogs. He received his second Purple Heart by protecting a fellow wounded soldier on his stretcher.  He laid on top of the wounded man and took the shrapnel from nearby explosions.  That action occurred November 21, 1951. Write up about Homer’s heroism was loss in a records fire in the 1970s.

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle, it takes a hero to be one f those who goes into battle.” – Norman Schwarkopf


MG John R. D’Araujo USA Ret and Capt. Robert “Buzz” Buswell USA Ret at September 17th Commemoration. Capt. Buswell is also a member of the mOPH 356. It took him 19 months to recover from the severity of his wounds.

“These Patriots and their families serve as an inspiration to all of us by their unique example of sacrifice, commitment and hope. These are the heroes, service members and families both.  We owe them the firm commitment as a people and as a nation to do all in our power to support their efforts and enduring that “no one is left behind”.
– John R. D’Araujo Jr.,
Maj. Gen. USA Retired

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