One of the victims of the Orlando massacre was a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, the Pentagon disclosed Tuesday.
Capt. Antonio Davon Brown, 30, was one of 49 people murdered by a madman during the early hours Sunday at Pulse Nightclub. A graduate of Florida A&M University, Brown lived in Cocoa Beach.
In a statement, Defense Department Secretary Ash Carter expressed deep sadness for the soldier’s death.
“Capt. Antonio Davon Brown served his country for nearly a decade, stepping forward to do the noblest thing a young person can do, which is to protect others. His service both at home and overseas gave his fellow Americans the security to dream their dreams, and live full lives. The attack in Orlando was a cowardly assault on those freedoms, and a reminder of the importance of the mission to which Capt. Brown devoted his life," Carter said.
The Army Times reports Brown was deployed to Kuwait for 11 months during the drawdown of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the U.S. Army, since November 2013, Brown was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 383rd Regiment, 4th Calvary Brigade, 85th Support Command based in St. Louis.
Lt. Col. Kevin Dasher, commanding officer of the battalion, told the Army Times Brown was “a loyal and dutiful officer who truly cared about the soldiers in his charge.” Brown, the Army says, received his commission in August 2008 and was assigned to a Decatur, Ga.-based combat support group. He transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas in 2009 where his unit was deployed to Kuwait.
Eric Fanning, the Army’s newly confirmed Secretary, said Brown’s death was “even more personal.” Fanning is an openly gay man.
“To be blunt, it could have been me,” Fanning said in a Facebook post. “This act of cowardice sought to rend the fabric of our nation, our people and my community. I promise you it will not; rather, it will almost certainly bring us all closer together, advancing the tolerance and progress he sought to destroy.”
Carter echoed Fanning’s comments.
“We stand with the people of Orlando and the nation’s LGBT community during this difficult time, and stand in determination to defeat ISIL and prevent the spread of its hateful ideology,” Carter said.
On a state level, the massacre reignites debate about hate crime laws. Scott Herman, a Gulf War combat disabled veteran who lives in Oakland Park is none too pleased with the initial response from Florida Governor Rick Scott, who failed to acknowledge the LGBT community.
“It took the Governor’s staff 36 hours to even type the letters LGBT,” Herman said.
Herman, who sits on several veterans’ boards in South Florida, also took issue with Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.
“It’s shameful that it took such an assault on the LGBT community for those in executive power in Tallahassee to realize we are all human," Herman said. "And if the criminal would have been taken alive due to our current laws he and/or she would not have faced hate crime charges on the state level. Even now our State Attorney General (Bondi) is pretending to care when just last year she considered married couples like those killed in Orlando and even my military family a threat to our state."