History Mighty Heroes

This MIGHTY milspouse fought for her grandfather’s Medal of Honor

Brandi Jones grew up with stories about military service that would inspire her to begin a years-long battle for the Medal of Honor.
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Brandi Jones grew up hearing about the extraordinary history of her family’s deep roots in military service to America, despite facing the ugly reality of extensive racism. Those stories inspired her to begin a years-long battle for the Medal of Honor

“I grew up as a military child in California and my earliest memory of military service was welcoming the troops home from the Gulf War,” she shared. “Growing up in a military town, I remember the local radio host would go live to announce the arrival of buses carrying troops returning from war. My family and I would go down with our American Flags and wave to the caravan as they passed.”

In between welcoming troops home, her parents told her about her great-grandfather Henry Dorton. He was an enslaved Black man who fought in three different battles of the Revolutionary War. 

“I learned that he was one of the few Revolutionary War veterans to successfully petition the court for his pension and receive it through an act of Congress,” Jones said. 

Her grandfather (whom she lovingly called “Pap”), Army Cpl. Fred B. McGee, would follow his grandfather’s footsteps into service. His actions overseas during the Korean War made him an American war hero. 

fred b. mcgee
Photo courtesy of Jones

“During his tour in Korea he earned two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star,” she explained. “He was inducted into the Ohio Hall of Fame as well as the Purple Heart Hall of Fame after serving in one of the 1st Integrated Army units back in 1953.”

While in college, Jones fell in love with and marry a Marine. 

“He served two tours in Iraq. The first tour was a six month deployment in 2004 with the 2/7 out in 29 Palms. After that tour we welcomed our two children before our first PCS as a family. Not long after he shipped out for his second tour in 2009 with 8th Marine Regiment attached to Camp Lejeune,” she shared. “He was deployed so long there was a R & R ‘respite care’ break in the middle. That was a really difficult time but I learned how important it is to have support and how vital our military community is to our families. I created my first business, a preschool playgroup called Mommies Like Us in support of other spouses and children. This program was recognized by then Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden.”

Today, she is the Organizing Director at Secure Family Initiative and a Council Member of the District Attorney of Monterey County’s Multicultural Committee. She is passionate about not only serving the military community but educating, as well. 

brandi jones milspouse family photo
Photo courtesy of Jones

“I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership. I believe in lifelong learning. My grandfather’s story and those like it, are missing from the story of our nation. This story is part of the greater American story and it’s important that it’s told,” Jones explained. “His story showcases the fact that Black Americans not only have fought in every battle in the history of our nation, they fought heroically and at a time when they themselves didn’t have equality or civil rights.”

Though her grandfather was a literal hero, he never talked about his time in uniform until late 2009. Jones said when he returned from war, he went back to his steel mill job, where he stayed until retiring after 54 years of work. 

“My grandfather served in one of the 1st integrated units in the U.S. Army and the climate was filled with racism,” she said. “After his heroic actions in the Korean War, he was asked to have his story and name used in a comic book called Heroics by Frank Frazetta. When the comic was released in 1953 he was shocked to see he was depicted as a white man, though he was Black.”

mcgee family photo

After both he and her grandmother passed away in 2020 after 63 years of marriage, Jones made it her mission to not only help tell his story but fight to get his Silver Star changed to a Medal of Honor. 

“I know that where I am today has a lot to do with the push for equality. Those who came before me, those who first integrated the military, endured so much,” Jones said. “Their strength, determination and audacity to hope for change is a legacy that I would like to carry on for this generation as well as the next.”

In 2022, she opened a Congressional Inquiry with Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s office. On June 20, 2023 she sat with her family in Congressman Bill Johnson’s office on Capitol Hill. There they were informed his Silver Star was in the process of being upgraded to a Medal of Honor. 

“The quote from then-President George W. Bush sharing how ‘America’s veterans have taken on the toughest tasks imaginable, now it’s our turn to continue to help’ really resonates with me as a granddaughter of a combat veteran and a military child who went on to become a military spouse,” Jones said. “Advocacy is an issue near and dear to me as a person who represents so many communities.”

brandi jones milspouse grandparents
Photo courtesy of Jones

As of this interview, the amendment awarding her “Pap” the Medal of Honor is sitting on President Biden’s desk awaiting his signature. WATM looks forward to celebrating this American hero, right alongside his extraordinary family.