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Pastor, sailor provides services to country

Staff photo / Raymond L. Smith Pastor Eric U. Brown Sr. of York Avenue Church of God in Warren, stands in front of his business, CBS Barber Shop, 770 Highland Ave. SW, Warren, in his Navy uniform.

WARREN — For Eric U. Brown Sr., life always has been about service, country and family.

The 56-year-old veteran spent 24 years — eight active duty and 16 in the Reserve — preserving the traditions of the nation by serving in the U.S. Navy, much like, at least, two generations of family members who served before him. He also has a son, Eric, who has served in the Navy.

Like two generations of family members before him, Brown has worked as a barber. He owns and operates, with his wife, CBS Barber Shop, 770 Highland Ave. SW.

Brown, a pastor at York Avenue Church of God in Warren, the call to be one of God’s servants came after growing up surrounded by generations of family members that led church congregations.

His aunt, Gayle Salter, was a pastor at Eastside Church of God in Warren. His mother’s brother, Rev. Joseph Davis, was a pastor at Friendship Baptist Church in Farrell, Pa.

“We all are here to be servants,” Brown said.

Brown volunteered to enter the military in 1983, shortly after turning 18.

“My father, Henry Sr., was in the Navy, and my grandfather, Thurman Miller, also was in the Navy,” Brown said. “My son, Eric Brown Jr., later served in the Navy.”

At the time he joined, Brown’s primary goal was to leave this area so he could see the world.

His basic training was in Orlando, Fla., and he later was sent to the Commander Fleet Activities base in Yokosuka, Japan, where he served for two years.

He initially worked as a supply man, which required him to swab a lot of decks. However, when he learned of the opportunity, Brown was trained to be an Information Systems Technician, or a radio man.

Brown was stationed on the supply ship USS White Plain AFS 4 ship. The ship’s home base was in Guam, and it delivered supplies to battle ship groups in the South China Sea.

He later was reassigned the amphibious ship USS Durham LKA 114, where he served with U.S. Marine units.

Returning to the states, Brown was in charge of receiving and sending information to U.S. satellites, monitoring radio traffic, satellite communications and keeping the equipment operating.

His ship went to various locations in the Pacific, including Hawaii, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Okinawa and Australia.

During all his time in the military, Brown was perfecting barbering skills he began learning as a child in his parents’ barber shop.

He went to barber college while stationed in San Diego, Calif.

“I was providing haircuts for other sailors I was stationed with either on Naval bases or on ship,” he said.

After serving for eight years, Brown determined it was time to leave active service to return home.

“When I enlisted in the Navy, I said if I stayed for at least 10 years, I would remain for at least 20 years, so I could retire,” he said. “At eight, I thought it was enough.”

However, after returning to Warren and opening CBS Barber Shop, Brown found he enjoyed many aspects of the life he lived in the military. In talking to many of his customers who were reservists, Brown was convinced to see what was available to him.

“I learned I could join the reserves at the same rank, E-5, I earned when I left active duty, and, for the most part, I would serve one weekend a month and two weeks in a year,” he said. “I could continue to use the skills I learned while I was active duty.”

He was assigned to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna. His unit was assigned to the NSA Bahrain Naval Base in the Middle East. Now a chief petty officer, E-7, Brown was in charge of a crew of six.

His reserve unit went to Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, in 2009 to be part of the Providential Reconstruction Team for a year. Their job was to rebuild communities and schools that had been overrun by the Taliban.

“This was a combined unit with members of the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force,” he said. “As the communications officer, I would ensure the communications were working between the vehicles, make sure our computers were functioning and ensure all the equipment was working.”

He went out on missions.

“When they sent a unit off base, they always had one communications specialist with the unit,” he said. “Some of the missions included taking on attacks. Sometimes, we would take on rocket fire on the forward operating bases. We had compounds we would be on and sometimes it would be raining bombs. Trying to stay alive could be challenging.”

Brown said he was called to the pastorate in 2008. His first assignment was in the Community Church of God in Campbell. He has been the senior pastor at York Avenue Church of God for eight years.

Brown retired from the Reserve in 2011, shortly after returning from Afghanistan.

He described the training he obtained in military was helpful in his taking on leadership roles at his church.

“Sometimes, you don’t see it, but the military provides a great learning opportunity for those who want to excel and leadership for things we can do on this planet,” he said. “One of things I learned while in Afghanistan was I was still able to serve my country while serving God at the same time. I was still preaching and doing church services.”

“It was an awesome time, even having to go through war,” he said. “I was able to meet a lot of good people.”

Brown is still working at the family barber shop and remains a pastor at York Avenue Church of God.

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