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Sumter military veteran passes on experience to Orangeburg JROTC students

Sergeant Major Howard Brown has been teaching ninth graders in the JROTC program for 29 years.

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. — Sergeant Major Howard Brown has a lifetime of experience, and he's sharing with a new generation.

After serving in the military for 26 years, Brown is sharing his knowledge with students at Lake Marion High School and Technology Center, where he's been teaching ninth graders in the school's JROTC program for 29 years.

“The uniform is respect, and I tell them nothing is respected more in the world than a military uniform," Brown said. "You go some place, people don’t have to know anything about you. They’ll automatically think you’re a good person because you have the uniform on." 

Brown says he teaches his students U.S. history, critical thinking, and discipline. He says he's been deployed all over the world from Thailand to Germany and even Korea.

“Ninth grade I consider to be the most critical year of high school. The foundation is laid," Brown said. "Some say I’m a little stern, but I think young people are kind of looking for structure in their lives. Not all of them, but a lot of them are looking for structure, and that’s what I try to provide for them."

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Brown says he brings his military experiences into the classroom.

“You know, soldiers are afraid of their sergeants. I'd rather them respect me than to be fearful of me. 'Cause if they respect you, they’ll do work when you’re not around. When they’re fearful of you, they only work when you’re around," said Brown.

Although many of his students have gone off to serve in the military, Brown says others have taken a different path and have become teachers and doctors.

“They come back to school. They come back here and sit here, too. And I just leave them in here with my students and they say, 'Oh my goodness gracious, he made me do so many pushups and everything, you know. He yelled at me, he made me stand up on one leg, took my uniform away, you know? But look at me today,'" he said.

Brown says he loves the work he does and has formed close bonds with many of his students.

“Teaching is something I want to do. Cause people say ‘Man, when are you gonna retire? When are you gonna retire?’ But I think as long as you enjoy doing something, and you can have an impact in peoples’ lives, you know? You do it because you enjoy doing it.”

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