SALT LAKE CITY — Even though a gunman was still firing into a Las Vegas crowd in 2017, a Utah National Guardsman ignored the bullets and tried to save as many as he could during the country’s worst mass shooting.
And for that bravery, Gov. Gary Herbert Tuesday presented the Utah Medal of Valor to National Guard Sgt. Chasen Brown for his heroic efforts that occurred almost three years ago, during what was supposed to be an evening of music and entertainment on the famous Las Vegas Strip.
Brown, a gunner for Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery, was attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, when a man began firing indiscriminately into the massive crowd assembled outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
“Chasen’s heroic actions on that tragic day remind me of what I am most proud of regarding our Guard members — that they serve selflessly and bravely in the defense of our nation and its citizens,” said Col. Steve Fairbourn, commander of the 65th Field Artillery Brigade. “This dedication isn’t limited to when they are deployed, but rather is just a part of their character.”
In the midst of all the ensuing pandemonium, Brown immediately started rendering aid to those wounded by the gunshots while still under a constant barrage of gunfire, officials said, and he saved the lives of a half-dozen people.
"It was a mini war zone, but we couldn't fight back."
On that day, 59 people were killed in the gunfire, while 412 others were wounded and 397 people suffered injuries fleeing the chaos.
Due to the highly emotional experience of the massacre, Brown chose not to comment during or after the ceremony. Instead, members of Brown’s chain of command spoke on his behalf.
Master Sgt. Sean Harris — who served in the same National Guard unit — said Brown was grateful for the recognition, but felt he was only doing what he thought had to be done under the circumstances.
“This was just a moment in time for him,” Harris said. “He acted heroically and he just wants to put it behind him and not focus on that day. He wants to move past it.”
The Utah Medal of Valor is the highest state award that a Utah National Guard member can receive and is given to those who demonstrate extreme valor. The decoration is for “a member of the Utah National Guard who distinguishes themselves by courageous conduct at the risk of their own life and personal safety, above and beyond the call of duty, while in the service of the state of Utah or the United States of America and its citizens.”
Harris noted that Brown’s character is truly indicative of the citizen soldier who serves in the Utah National Guard.
“That speaks highly to the characteristics and values that we embody,” Harris said. “He received training through basic training and (with) the training that he received in this unit, he became proficient and rather than thinking about what he was doing, he just acted instinctively. Those are the characteristics and attributes that we look for in our citizen soldiers.”
A 30-year military veteran, Harris said Brown was “thoroughly impressive” since the day they met three years ago.
“This would be a difficult time for many people to go through. But he was able to go through the situation, do a phenomenal job, act with valor and then continue on and find ways to move through it and past it and still maintain his professionalism and uphold the standards and values of the Army in an incredible way,” Harris said. “He’s an incredible example to me. Even though I outrank him and I have a lot more experience, I still look up to the character and the amazing person that he is.”