Where do I begin? If you have been following my blog posts you are aware of what led me to this point in my story. It all began with a book titled SEAL of GOD. It sparked a renewed interest in the Special Operations community and it eventually led me to read a book named FEARLESS by Eric Blehm. It is quite possible that I may have never read the book. Once I did, My FEARLESS Adventure began.
It was after reading FEARLESS that I discovered a page on Facebook called
R.I.P. Adam L. Brown. You could join the group and pay tribute to Adam and leave well wishes and comments for Adam’s family. The administrator is Adam’s wife Kelley.
I joined in. I was on the page one day when I saw a reference to another page called, Fearless Rock – The Adam Brown Underwater Memorial. I began to follow this page as well.
The page was being run by a man named Will Stevens. He lived in Little Rock but was a native of Hot Springs, which is where Adam Brown grew up. I sent Will a friend’s request and he accepted! At that time Will was in the process of sharing the plan and idea of an underwater memorial that would pay tribute to Adam Brown’s service and ultimate sacrifice. He was taking the marker that would make up the most prominent part of the memorial to different places while doing public appearances.
Like many of us, Will is a veteran. He began his military service in the Arkansas Army National Guard. He would later hold a key position within the United States Air Forces. These days, he works in Human Resources and is actually taking seminary classes and wants to start a ministry to help veterans. Will is also a certified Master Diver with hundreds of dives under his dive belt.
I asked Will how the concept of the memorial came to him and he stated it this way:
“I saw the memorial in a dream where I was scuba diving at a place where I had been only a few times before, and when I asked aloud who had built what I had seen, a voice said, "You Will". I immediately woke up and I sketched what I saw. This would become the granite marker, which is the centerpiece of the memorial.”
I would eventually get a chance to meet him. He actually pulled the sketch out of his wallet and showed it to me. Do you believe things like that actually happen? You need to read FEARLESS. I am thinking of the string of 24s in the chapter called AFTERWORD. Um…you would have to read it for yourself.
I have followed Fearless Rock pretty much from the beginning of the project. I had several conversations with Will via Facebook chat and there were several times that he would end the conversation with the words “Be Fearless”. One day, I was looking at the logo for Fearless Rock. It is the Crusader’s Cross and shield. Adam and some of his teammates wore this patch or similar on their uniforms. I have never gotten a tattoo of any kind but all of a sudden an idea “just” came to me. What if I was to get the FR logo tattooed on my arm and have “Be Fearless” placed above it. I could put a suitable bible verse at the bottom. Will reminded me that Adam’s life verse was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” This is actually my wife’s favorite verse. That was a big selling point to Rosie for getting the tattoo.
The tattoo artist that I picked has a master’s degree in art and is incredibly talented. He was asking things like “um, so you like go to church every Sunday?”
Something to that effect anyhow, lol.
Will loved my tattoo and shared it on the Fearless Rock page. I was so proud of it and still am today! I am also proud to say that Will is my brother and a friend of mine. He is one of my heroes.
I received the most spectacular gift from him in the mail. It is the first Navy flag to be flown at the memorial. Flown under water! I opened the envelope and thought, “how cool”, I’ll run down to Wal-Mart or somewhere to get a frame to throw it in some day. The envelope that it came in sat on the kitchen table. Some days later, I picked up the envelope that it came in, which hadn’t been thrown away yet, and looked inside. What I found was a certificate of authenticity that Will had sent with it. It had two pictures of “My” flag underwater. Underneath the picture in type it reads, “This is the original US Navy flag that flew over the Fearless Rock Underwater Memorial in 2013”. Below that in Will’s handwriting it says:
“Greg, Thank you for all your support of Fearless Rock over the last year. Since you are a Navy Vet, I wanted you to have the original US Navy flag to fly over the memorial”. This included his signature!
My thoughts when I saw this were that I needed to have this all framed and matted professionally, and so I did. It is a priceless treasure! And yes, I am SO glad the envelope hadn’t been thrown away.
I have mentioned in previous posts that Adam Brown became known as the Tender Warrior. That name stuck to him after he read and shared a book with some of his teammates. The book titled Tender Warrior was written by a man named Stu Weber. Stu is a former Special Forces Green Beret officer who served in Vietnam. He went on to pastor a church here, close to the area I live, and has since retired from that position.
I was sitting in church one day during the announcements when it was said that there is a men’s conference coming up at another church just blocks away. The speaker was to be none other than Stu Weber. You just know, I was all over that! Stu is a very impressive man in both speech and stature.
We had the opportunity to stand in line and meet him. I made sure that I was wearing my Fearless Rock shirt that day. As I approached Stu, I could see that he immediately spotted the design of the shirt. I told him all about the memorial and Will Stevens. I told him that I had heard about his book by reading FEARLESS. We discussed that Kelley Brown and the kids had visited his church. We talked about Kelley and both agreed that she is an amazing woman. I had him sign a copy of Tender Warrior for Will, which I mailed to him and he was happy to receive it.
Later, I was looking at my Fearless tattoo and thinking that my left arm looked kind of empty. Actually, I was inspired by the title and content of one of the chapters in Stu’s Book. The chapter is titled “The Four Marks of a Finisher”. In the opening sentence he mentions former basketballs stars to the likes of Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler. These guys were the people that you could count on to finish the game for you. The point he wanted to convey was that good great people Finish Strong. The chapter has references to biblical characters that are finishers. So I am thinking that I have made a ton load of mistakes in my life but I want to finish strong. Adam Brown made some mistakes that he overcame to reach the tip of the spear. I want to give my all like Adam and all these other people have. So the tattoo on my left arm says at the top “Finish Strong”. I had the same tattoo artist put 1st Corinthians 9:24 in its entirety under that. Here is what it says:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
Do I live up to these markings that I have on my arms every single day. I would have to admit that I do not, but they are something to strive for. In essence, both of my tattoos were inspired by Navy SEAL Adam Brown of Hot Springs Arkansas. Would Stu Weber approve? I hope that he at least wouldn’t mind!
It was exiting enough to me to be involved long distance but I wanted to do more. We are a single income family and long distance vacations are usually out of the question. When something is important to you, you take action. I took action, I sold my house! Let’s be realistic here. If we were talking about a house that is close to being paid for. or one that was a significant source of income, things might have been different. After all, I have responsibilities. This house was one that we had moved out of due to a job change. At the time, we were renting it out and living in a rental house ourselves here near Salem. I can't lie, there was a certain amount of sacrifice involved but I decided that I was going to do something outside of the box. I wanted to go meet these people and dive Fearless Rock.
I discussed it with my wife, Rosemarie. I told her that we could sell the place and fly the three of us to Arkansas for a short vacation. I could take diving lessons and dive Fearless Rock with Will Stevens. We could see this place for ourselves. You know, breath the air so to speak. She said yes!
I was hesitant to include the sale of the house because I didn't want to inject ME into the conversation. I felt, though, that this was part of the story and discovered that leaving it out would make the story incomplete. Diving Fearless Rock and meeting Will Stevens was that important. I Didn't want to sit on the couch and miss out on what I thought would be the opportunity of a lifetime. These folks became so important to me and the opportunity warranted this type of action. I felt like I needed to go the extra mile in order and do something that is outside the box. I am so glad that I did!
In almost 35 years of marriage we had never really been on a vacation, or even a real honeymoon for that matter. My dad paid for us to take the kids to Disneyland when they were younger and there were a couple of long trips to visit family, but that was it. Here it was, year 2014, and we were going to travel from Oregon to Hot Springs to dive Fearless Rock. I don’t think that I had ever been more excited.
There was, of course, a lot of preparation that had to take place. The timeline was a tight one. Everything had to fall into place. The house had to close escrow at a certain time and I had to make it through dive school. The plan was to go in June and I planned on taking diving lessons in April. We had to purchase Airline tickets and new luggage, as well as, make hotel reservations. I hadn’t swum in years so I hit a local pool to practice.
As dive school began, we had a time of orientation and greeting. Blake Fry is a great guy and the owner of Salem Scuba. He has been associated with the shop for almost thirty years and has owned it for well over twenty years. He began the class by asking people what they did for a living and why it is that they are taking up Scuba. People gave their vocations and reasons for taking up the hobby. Most people stated that they were taking it up because they wanted to go somewhere exotic for a diving vacation or perhaps because they wanted to go with a family member that was already certified. When it came time for me, I told everyone that I was taking Scuba classes because I wanted to travel to Arkansas and dive an underwater memorial that was built to honor a fallen Navy SEAL. I also mentioned the book FEARLESS. When I gave my reason for diving to Blake, he said that he had never heard anything like that in all his years of owning the shop. I believe him on that. In general, people thought that it was pretty cool!
My biggest fear in all this was that it was cold flu season. I was on pins and needles all the way up to the time we got to Arkansas. If you’re a diver and get sick, you can’t always equalize your ears underwater. After all, we had plane and hotel reservations!
Everything went as planned and the trip was on. This was Benjamin’s first airplane ride ever. We told him that he was going to ride on the bus with wings and he did an awesome job of flying. We flew 2300 miles and there we were, in Little Rock. Will met us at the airport and presented us each with our own Arkansas Razorback Hat. The significance of mine was that it was the same one that was worn by Adam Brown while he was on deployment. Prior to the trip Will had recommended that we stay the first night in Benton. It is essentially the halfway point between Little Rock and Hot Springs. We had breakfast at the Waffle House in Benton the next morning because it is mentioned in FEARLESS. That may sound silly to you, but hey, we were there. Why not? Finally, it was time to head to Hot Springs. How excited do you think I was about this? I stepped outside the box and received an opportunity I will never forget. Never! Before I knew it, Saturday arrived and that meant Fearless Rock!
All the preparation that took place. Swimming in the pool and then dive classes. Open Water weekend in Hoodsport Washington, performing the dive skills, you learned in the pool. Only now, you were in a Bay that is connected to the Pacific Ocean. All the concern with staying well, and then, it was time!
Prior to diving the memorial, Will took me to Lake Hamilton High school and to Wolf Stadium where Adam played Football. Will took a most spectacular photo of me on the side of one of the end zones where there lies a marker in the turf that is dedicated to Hot Springs home town hero Adam Brown. He also took a picture of me under a street sign that bares Adam’s name. The sign has become somewhat famous.
It was time to dive. I had followed Fearless Rock pretty much from the beginning and had seen all the photos and videos that had been posted. It is impossible to fully appreciate the memorial unless you see it in person. The effect that magnification has on it underwater is just spectacular! We were there in June so all the challenge coins sent by people from all over sat there on the verse stone. The entire thing was just breathtaking. The granite marker that includes a famous picture of Adam is embedded in a large flat rock. It makes up the center piece of the memorial. Looking at that just fills you with emotion. What a sight! Again, one I will never forget. I would be back again one day soon and I plan on being there a third time someday. Such a fitting tribute to such an inspirational life.
Will said that he just stacks rocks but God is the one that created the memorial. I am sure that he is glad that he was chosen to be a big part of the process. Such a humble guy! He filled out my dive log in a spectacular way and that makes it a treasured item.
Will and the Fearless Rock team have since built an addition that honors Adam’s teammates and the other heroes that gave their lives for their country during the Extortion 17 tragedy. I am going back to see it someday.
Last, but not least, we visited Adam’s grave site. Such a beautiful place. So peaceful. What a privilege to be able to pay respect to Adam in person.
The entire day was just sensory overload to the max.
After that, we went and picked up Rosie and Benjamin and headed to Stubby’s BBQ for lunch. At a time when Adam Brown was down and out because of his addiction, a friend helped him to get a job at Stubby’s. The food there is awesome and it stands on its own. It is true, however, that Stubby’s now has extra notoriety because of its connection to Adam. They now have a wall inside that honors Fearless Navy SEAL Adam Brown.
While we were there, another friend dropped in to say hello. Rose Anne Davis is a retired English teacher who I connected with through a mutual FEARLESS fan. We have since become good friends and it was so neat to meet her. We would attend church with Rose Anne the next day. She goes to a great church! Just like home! We also would get to visit with her and some of her beautiful lady friends after church. Great memories!
Rose Anne said that we were the first long distance Facebook friends that she has been able to meet in person. She is such a neat lady in so many ways and I really value her friendship. I would actually get to introduce her to Adam’s parents one day. Small things can be big thrills to this regular guy!
It was sad for me to have to say good bye, but most good things have to come to an end. This was a whirlwind trip, however, it was truly an amazing experience. I will never forget it! It wouldn’t be that long until I would return. That would be too much for me to tell right now.
I am a Pacific Northwest recreational diver. I just completed my 30th dive. That’s not a lot of dives, but it’s a good start. I plan on diving as long as this body of mine will allow me to. I had never considered diving before. I always thought that it would be kind of creepy. Now, I love it. I didn’t start until I turned 54 years of age. Diving is an outside the box activity.
This is all because I read a book that I may have never read. Reading it brought me through a series of events that led me to Fearless Rock and Will Stevens. That is why I dive today!
It is funny how one life event leads to another. I saw a book called SEAL of God which sparked a renewed interest in the Special Ops community. I would eventually read FEARLESS, find RIP Adam Brown and Fearless Rock on Facebook. I would get to scuba dive and see the most spectacular tribute to the most incredible warrior, while meeting the man chosen to be its creator. All because I read a book that I had originally put back on the shelf and may have never read.
I hope that you don’t mind me sharing My FEARLESS Adventure with you. Thanks for your time!
Highlighting a previous blog that might interest you:
Journey Unexpected - The Rich Family
One child in a family with a rare disease is a challenge. What if there is two? Heartbreak multiplied you pick up the pieces and will yourself to do your very best. A love that is profound and a bond that is stronger than any other is formed. Two little beauties in one family is two, too many but you seek to make a difference! A journey unexpected...