Del. Anthony G. Brown (D-Prince George's) has had quite a month. On June 15 Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) appointed him majority whip of the Maryland House of Delegates. A week later, Brown, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, received marching orders of a different kind: He was ordered to report to Fort McCoy, Wis., on July 12 for training. He expects his ultimate destination will be Iraq. Brown didn't flinch when he received the call. "I've always known that if I got the call, I'd answer it," says the lawyer and legislator.
The words "public service" can be used by politicians as a cover for servitude to the political lifestyle. In Brown's case, public service is his life. And he hasn't been afraid to make unorthodox choices to pursue his passion for serving others.
As a Harvard undergraduate, Brown surprised classmates by signing up for the Reserve Officers Training Corp. He had to travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to participate because Harvard kicked out the ROTC in 1969 over Vietnam. Today, Harvard keeps it out because of the military's policy on homosexuals. "It's a shame," said Brown, "because Harvard prides itself on leadership, which is what ROTC is all about."
Brown was commissioned as a second lieutenant on June 6, 1984, the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. "One of the great days of my life," he says. At the same time, his twin brother, Andrew, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and spent three years in an armored unit of the Army. "We surprised each other" when we both decided on military life at college, says Brown.
After five years of active duty as an aviation officer, Brown mustered out as a captain and enrolled at Harvard Law School. After graduation, he went to work at Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering, a top national law firm, and joined the Army Reserve JAG Corps. In 1998 he made another unorthodox choice. He surprised his colleagues at Wilmer by jumping off the partnership track to win a seat in the House, where he served as vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee before his promotion this month.
As a legislator, Brown, 42, is respected for his intelligence and integrity. To be sure, a Harvard-trained lawyer-legislator-warrior is bound to produce a little legislative envy. His voting record doesn't always track the teachings of his Catholic Church, and Brown's positions sometimes rankle his colleagues at the trial bar. But few question Brown's energy or commitment. He is on the short list to become a state's attorney or perhaps Maryland's first African American attorney general.
As a JAG officer, Brown is likely to be asked to brief troops on rules of engagement and on the Geneva and Hague conventions. He will be a walking reminder that Abu Ghraib is not the true face of the U.S. military. His unit, the Civil Affairs Command, also likely will be asked to help reestablish civil authority and build the justice system from the ground up.
As he prepares for deployment, Brown leaves behind more than colleagues and constituents. His family -- wife, Patricia; daughter, Rebecca, 9; and son, Jonathan, 4 -- also are preparing for his departure.
Legislator-warriors are not new in this country. In 1861 President Abraham Lincoln ordered lawmakers away from Civil War combat after Sen. Edward Baker (R-Ore.) was killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff. So many members of Congress enlisted in World War II that President Franklin D. Roosevelt made them choose between their congressional seats and military service.
Closer to home, State Sen. John Astle (D-Annapolis) served five months in the Persian Gulf as a Marine Corps reserve colonel in 1991. Another Prince George's lawyer and one-time congressional candidate, Capt. John E. Smathers, recently returned from Iraq, after earning two Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars and the Army Commendation Medal.
Brown doesn't have to worry about voter reaction to his temporary absence from Annapolis. His constituents know he already has provided great leadership in Annapolis, but that he'll provide even greater leadership by example in Iraq. Besides Anthony Brown's safe return, that's all anyone could ask for.
The writer, a lawyer in Greenbelt, served 16 years in the Maryland legislature. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.