If you have been reading my blog you know that I have tried to share with you the impact that the book FEARLESS has had on me. There are so many great stories of heroism coming out of these latest conflicts that have come about because of the War on Terror. All of these stories are inspirational in one way or another. The life of Adam Brown and what he went through to get to the Tip of the Spear keeps FEARLESS at the top of my list. That is why I have titled this series of posts, My FEARLESS Adventure. I maybe have taken things to an extreme when it comes to this book but if you read it you might understand why.
If you have been following along you have heard me state that as much as I love professional sports, my real heroes wear camouflage. I own a Kindle and the list of books that I have read about members of the Special Operations community continues to grow. I am a veteran, although I did not serve in combat. The character that these guys possess and the training they receive set them apart in a class all by themselves. They are extra-ordinary in my book. I’m a big fan!
Do you remember my reaction after reading the book FEARLESS? I had seen it in a book store and read the back cover. I actually put it back on the shelf, because I was hesitant to read it. I bought a different book instead. However, once I did read it I was truly amazed by Adam and his family’s story. I still remember sitting in front of my computer wondering how I would go about getting ahold of these people to tell them how truly inspired I was by what I had read, and to thank them.
As it turns out, it is not as hard as I thought. It was through Fearless Rock – The Adam Brown Underwater Memorial page that I learned about the 5K run that is held in Hot Springs each year to honor Adam. I was unable to attend in 2014, but visited Hot Springs with my family in June of that year when I dove Fearless Rock for the first time. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet the Browns on that trip.
So fast forward to early 2015. I knew that the next 5K was just a short time away and so I approached my wife Rosie about the prospect of me going. I told her that I could work the extra overtime needed to help pay for the trip. Do you think that a person named Rosie would say no to such a request? Of course not. And yes, she thought that that would be okay.
I was excited that I was going to meet Adam's family and have the opportunity to express my appreciation for them telling his story. I was also going to be able to spend more time with Will and the Fearless Rock team and dive the memorial one more time.
So again, there is always the usual preparation involved in traveling. Once again it was cold flu season and staying well was a priority. Everything went well as the day approached. Then it was like the day before it was time to go and central Arkansas was hit with inclement weather. Snow and Ice and travel advisories, oh my! My reservations were set and I decided to go for it. The trip was on!
The flight to Hot Springs went without a hitch. I brought my Kindle with me on the trip. At the time I was reading the book titled, A Warrior’s Faith. The book was about a Navy SEAL named Ryan Job. He served alongside Chris Kyle, the American Sniper. Ryan lost his eyesight as a result of an injury sustained from a sniper’s bullet while he was in Iraq. It was authored by a man named Robert Vera. The book is about both Ryan’s life after the injury and the relationship that developed with him and Robert. I have often compared this book to FEARLESS because of its spiritual content, and thought of it as a companion to Adam’s story. I have to say, after rereading A Warrior’s Faith, that the story of Ryan and Robert really stands on its own. The book is a must read. Another incredible story.
The trip to Hot Springs from the airport in Little Rock was a little bit sketchy because there was still a lot of ice and snow on and around the roads. It was during the dark hours of the evening that I made the drive, however I made it safely to my room. I stayed at the Country Inn Lake Resort which is right on the edge of Lake Hamilton. It is also right next to the famous I-70 bridge that Adam jumped from out of a moving vehicle. Read FEARLESS! I was later told by Will Stevens that this is the same Inn that SEAL team six stayed at when they attended Adam’s memorial service. It was at that time that they all jumped from the I-70 as a show of solidarity with their fallen brother. According to Will, they stayed in the very block of rooms that included my room, which was room number 7. I think that is pretty cool. Don’t you?
Friday morning started with having breakfast at the Cracker Barrel with my good friend Rose Anne Davis. I love the Cracker Barrel and my friend Rose Anne as well. After breakfast I headed to Lake Hamilton High school where they were setting up for the 5K run that would take place the following day. And that is when I finally got to meet Janice and Larry Brown. Oh my gosh! We had a short conversation and had our picture taken together by Will. It’s the Little things like this that are a big deal to a regular guy like me! I would have more opportunity to speak with them in the evening during the registration for the race.
As evening time rolled around, it was time for registration, it was time to register for the race. My running days are over of course, but I ran in spirit. I was planning on diving the memorial the next day and that was my focus. This gave me more time to be with Larry and Janice and to meet other people as well. I got to meet Adam’s brother Shawn and we had a good conversation. Shawn is an awesome guy of course. I met Adam’s twin sister Manda. How neat! I also got to meet Adam’s friend Jeff Buschmann who at the time was still serving in the navy and held the rank of commander. Very cool!
Larry and Janice are such neat people. Anytime that I might have tried to tell them that, they would deflect the conversation to Adam. The Browns are so humble. They feel that part of their mission is to be the keepers of Adam’s story and legacy and in fact this is true, however, they are really special people. After returning from this trip I would send Larry a copy of A Warriors Faith. Inside the front cover I wrote Larry a note. I perhaps got a little too wordy but this is part of what I said. “You are every bit the man that I thought you would be…...”. Larry really is an incredible guy! I would have read FEARLESS just to read about him.
There were a couple of times that I caught myself staring at Janice from the Fearless Rock table. She looked back at me with a huge smile on her face. I was probably thinking to myself something like “how sweet is this lady?” and in fact she really is that! I told Janice that they are every other thought inside my head. I think that caught her by surprise. She said that is really sweet of me to say that, but it is really true!
There was so much going on that weekend. I was functioning on 5-hour energy drinks and little sleep. I wasn’t going to miss out on anything. It was that same evening that I got to meet Adam’s wife Kelley. What an absolute treat that was. I shook her hand and said hello. (Greg, you shook her hand and said hello? You had her right there. You could have taken her to the side, given her a hug, and told her how much her and Adam’s story means to you. And instead, you shook her hand?) She was pretty excited when she heard that I had come all the way from Oregon. Kelley’s presence was a little intimidating to me. You see she is completely attractive, and the wife of a Navy SEAL team six operator. You know what though. She was also very sweet!
Kelley, if you ever read this – I want you to know that reading FEARLESS was inspirational, to say the least, and it has had a huge impact on my life. I have read it 5 times and counting. I am looking forward to the movie coming out and to seeing you again at a future 5k event. Thank you SO much. You are just an incredible woman!
Saturday was the big event. I stood with Will Stevens and the other members of the Fearless Rock Dive Team at their display table. Will had set up a lap top with a video of diving the memorial. Spectacular! He also had all the challenge coins from the memorial on display. The team brings the coins up from the water during the winter months. Rounding up the Fearless rock display was all the items that would make up the addition to the memorial that is intended to honor the heroes of the Extortion 17 Tragedy. These brave men would include the members of Adam’s SEAL team.
The entire event is just incredible. You meet so many neat people and at the same time you experience the beauty of the southern culture. The food was awesome and the company was so sweet. So many nice people in one place. As a diver, people are usually looking forward to booking their next trip to a warm and inviting tropical place. Not this guy. I am looking forward to booking my next trip to Hot Springs for the next big event. It may be next year, or the one after that, but I will be back someday. I love it here in the Northwest because of the climate and scenery, but I also love it in the south because of the people and the culture. Hot Springs is a magical place to me. I love going there and I am always sad when I have to leave.
After that it was time to dive Fearless Rock. I hadn’t been diving in a while and was a bit of a nervous mess. Will had to be extra patient with me that day and it was very much appreciated. Because of the fact that the Spring weather was still approaching, the memorial was missing all the items and challenge coins that normally adorn the verse stone. However, it was still a sight to see! You have to be there in person to truly appreciate Adam’s underwater memorial. Just incredible. The same day we were there, a young man named Riley Perkins was there filming us. He used the video footage and more to create a short film about the memorial.
It can be viewed on YouTube. He made me look a lot more competent than I was that day. If you watch the video, you’ll see Will helping get my wetsuit zipped up. I am the last guy to submerge in the water. Later in the video I appear at the verse stone wearing my blue 3 mil. wetsuit. This footage was taken on my first trip to Hot Springs. What a great privilege this was. What a day, what a day! Just like that, it was over.
Will told me that the Browns would be speaking at their church, Hot Springs Baptist, the following day. Well I wasn’t going to miss out on that, was I?
The Browns were speaking with another couple that day at church. This couple had lost a very attractive daughter to an aggressive form of cancer. Together, Larry and Janice, and this other couple, started a new ministry to help other families that are grieving the loss of their loved ones. The ministry is called While We’re Waiting. That is what they talked about that day. It was a privilege to be there. This, once again, was a special event and a priceless memory.
Larry told me before the service that he appreciated me coming from such a great distance. I told him that I would have traveled twice that far. I guess for me to make a statement like that is a little extreme, but it definitely relayed my sentiment.
I had the opportunity once again at the end of the service to shake Larry’s hand and to give Janice a hug. What an incredible time and we weren’t done yet!
I have been told that I a good group singer. My voice really carries. I fill up the space I inhabit. So during the singing portion at the beginning of the service, I was being my usual obnoxious self, lol. We were near the front on the left hand side. As we were leaving I turned to my immediate right and who would be standing there by their seats but none other than Adam’s siblings Shawn and Manda.
I could see that Manda had been moved emotionally by the service. After all, we’re talking about her twin brother Adam. I shook her and Shawn’s hand and told them how nice it was to meet them. And it truly was!
There was one stop that I hadn’t made yet. That was to see the statue of Adam that was formed by an artist to honor him. I googled the location to the veteran’s memorial park and found my way there. There was nobody there that day. I was there in complete solitude as I viewed this wonderful work of art that portrayed Adam’s image in such a moving and spectacular way. Adam is holding his bible in one hand close to his chest. In the other hand he is holding a pair of children’s shoes. Why children’s shoes?
Adam Brown was a Navy SEAL known to be a tender warrior. In the book FEARLESS, we have the example of Shoes. Shoes? Yes, Shoes! It’s recorded that Adam was asked by his wife Kelley what he would like in a Thanksgiving care package and he said nothing for himself. Rather, he requested that she buy children’s sizes of shoes and socks and send them instead. You see he noticed, as it was getting colder, that all the kids that he was around at this time of his deployment were either barefoot or had flip-flop type shoes. By the time word passed from family members to different church congregations in the community, the amount of pairs of shoes and socks swelled into the hundreds. While Adam’s teammates were stuffing their rucksacks with extra grenades and ammo, Adam was stuffing his with shoes and socks for kids. So here was a Navy SEAL down on his knees with his rifle slung around his neck, teaching kids how to tie their new shoes! Read it for yourself. Read FEARLESS!
Finally, it was time to head back to Little Rock. My morning flight was early and so I stayed there overnight. As I was leaving my boss texted me from Oregon to tell me that he had just finished reading FEARLESS. He knew where I was at and he wanted me to give his regards to the Browns. He was just a little late. Unfortunately, I was leaving. I decided to pull over and send Janice a message. I gave her my boss’ regards and included a picture of Adam’s statue to show her that it was my last stop. She expressed her appreciation for both Mike’s comments and for me traveling the distance. She is so sweet!
This weekend, which was to be my second trip to Hot Springs, was the fulfillment of a desire that I had from the moment I finished reading FEARLESS for the first time. That is to show my appreciation to Kelley and the entire Brown family for sharing theirs and Adam’s story with all of us. What a great privilege it was to be there!
No regrets. None!