Seanwong Brown: Embrace Your Wings
Seanwong Brown is a Thai African American who served in the United States Airforce. He speaks about his journey in trying to see the world and what he lessons he picked up along the way.
I was born in Lubbock, Texas. My father was stationed there in the military, close to New Mexico. Born and raised, well, I can’t say raised. Born in Texas and moved all over. Military brat. He was a little young cat, he was here in Chicago and wanted to get out and explore the world. He was trying to figure out how he could do that. A little youngblood boy on the South side wanted to see the world. It seemed pretty limited here. So he decided, hey, join the Airforce and see the world. One of his first places to go was Thailand. He went during the Vietnam war to Thailand. That’s how he met my mother. It was kinda crazy. He couldn’t speak Thai and she couldn’t speak English. But somehow, love has its way of communicating and he brought her back to the United States. Because of him, I love to travel and see things, because there was always something new and fresh.
I used to want to be a pilot, and my father was an aircraft mechanic. So he would take me to work with him sometimes. He would work at this place called “the hush house”. Basically what they would do is strap up the plane, and run it full throttle and you can see the engine go into after-burn. It’s sitting on the ground and you can watch it. I was like “Wow, this is so cool!”. That was his job so I was like “That would be awesome, I fly ‘em and you fix ‘em!”. That sounded perfect. Throughout my time, we lived in military base housing, we lived in different cities, different countries. It was at the point where I could sit in my room, because we were close to the flight path of the airplanes going to the runway, and without even looking out the window I could tell what plane it was just by listening. Two engine, single engine, pitching, I could tell. That’s just how immersed I was in.
When I became a rebellious teenager, I was like “Oh I’m not gonna join the military, I can do other things.” So I decided to go into banking. I went to work at the mercantile exchange. I went to work at a modeling agency. I was doing a lot of different things. Then, I still had this burning desire inside to say ‘Look, every male in my family, in one way or another, has served in the military, or served the community or served in some form or fashion’. I felt that I wasn’t doing my part. I’d been fighting it for so long, I needed to do my part. This is one thing I say that guided other plans for me.
As much as I wanted to do my part and go overseas and do all that, everytime I had a mission to go, it kept getting fragged. I remember as a kid when my father went over to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, me as a kid was like “I don’t want him to go. I want to go. I want to take his place. He should be home and I should be there.” Why? I have no idea but I just felt that I should be the one there. Mind you Bush was in office at the time, and then here another Bush is in office, and now I’m serving in my fathers war. When I got to my duty station, all the guys that I was working with were already overseas. So I was filling in for them here in the US, while they were there. And when they came back, it was quite a while before we got another opportunity to get a mission to go anywhere. I was supposed to go to Italy for a while, I was supposed to go to Yemen for a while, I was supposed to go to all these places. I trained out in Texas for a while for the heat. I trained out in Vegas for the heat and certain things. I never went anywhere. Then when I got out, everybody left. I guess it just wasn’t meant for me to go.
I’ve always felt like we’re all here for a reason, we’re all meant to help. It’s not just about us, it’s about what we leave behind. I would say embrace your culture, embrace both sides of you. As a mixed person, like I said my mothers from Thailand and my fathers African American, the older I get the more that I want my children or my children’s children to understand who they are and where they came from. Embrace your uniqueness. Don’t let anyone try to demean and diminish your value.