Biography of Adam Brown -- a member of SEAL Team Six killed in action on March 17, 2010 in Afghanistan
“Fearless:” Adam Brown and SEAL Team SIX
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“When Adam Brown woke up on March 17, 2010, he didn’t know he would die that night in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan—but he was ready.”—Eric Blehm “Fearless”
“Where do we get such men?”—RADM. George Tarrant, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri”
The book “Fearless” by Eric Blehm is the biography of Adam Brown—a member of SEAL Team Six killed in action on March 17, 2010, in Afghanistan. I originally planned on posting this article to coincide with the official publication date of “Fearless” on May 22nd, but decided to move it back to the 24th for reasons that will be explained later in the article.
“Fearless” is an in-depth look into Adam Brown’s back-story—growing up in Arkansas, why he volunteered for the SEALs, and his experiences while a member of the Teams (SEAL-4, SEAL-2, and SEAL-6). Blehm’s book is notable for several reasons; not least of which is his ability to take a plethora of military terms and acronyms and make them understandable to the lay reader—also, Blehm should be congratulated for unwavering and scrupulous commitment to keeping classified SEAL operational tactics secret. One can only wish that the “amateur hour” antics of the Obama Administration had a fraction of Blehm’s integrity and common sense in this regard.
Blehm crisscrossed the country interviewing numerous SEALs for his book. The SEALs that Blehm spoke to were under no illusions about the dangers inherent in their job, and wished to share with Blehm their stories about, and memories of, Adam Brown while they could.
“‘We’re about to deploy,’ one of Adam’s closet SEAL buddies said as we began our interview…. ‘You never know what might happen—I could get killed on my next mission. I want to do Adam right, so let’s get it done.’”
Indeed, “you never know what might happen.” In the Prologue to “Fearless” Blehm quotes seven SEALs who knew Adam Brown. A little over a month later all seven SEALs would be dead—killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
(Sidebar: One can only hope that the unwise practice of combining Afghan troops of questionable loyalties with highly trained American operatives has stopped since the tragedy of last August. You do not have to be Sun Tsu (c.544-496 BC) in order to grasp the potential for catastrophic results such an arrangement presents. I realize that the official version of the crash states that the chopper was “downed by RPGs,” and that may even be true—nonetheless, mixing Afghan troops in with US spec op troops is a monumentally asinine game plan).
Speaking of the SEALs that he interviewed Blehm writes, “While describing Adam, they had unknowingly defined themselves: fearless in their own right, selfless, and not only willing but also proud to sacrifice their lives for the freedoms we enjoy every day.”
Blehm does a superb job of fleshing out Adam Brown’s history by utilizing interviews with Brown’s mother and father, wife, friends, colleagues, teachers, coaches, mentors, and other various and sundry people who influenced, and were influenced by, Adam Brown. “Fearless” presents the reader with no two-dimensional “cartoon” stereotype, but with an honest portrait of an extraordinary American hero—“warts” and all.
“On his CACO [Casualty Assistance Calls Officer] form Adam had encouraged people to talk about his drug addiction and what he had put his family through, ‘probably the most selfless and fearless thing he ever did….’”
“Says Austin [Michaels] ‘He must have known he’d be a hero if he were killed in action,’ but gave the go-ahead to humble himself, to let the world see those skeletons in his closet, to share his testimony.’”
Sprinkled throughout “Fearless” are small but telling vignettes from Adam Brown’s life that indicate what sort of man he was—and where that man came from. One such snippet tells of an incident that occurred during Brown’s eighth-grade school year:
“Adam was hanging out with friends in front of the school one morning when a school bus pulled up and students poured out. Most of the kids headed to the front doors, but three boys stopped Richie Holden, who has Down syndrome, and taunted him by calling him names. Smaller than any of the bullies, Adam nevertheless marched over and stood in front of Richie. ‘If you want to pick on someone,’ he said, ‘you can pick on me—if you think you’re big enough.’” ‘The three backed off,’ Richie’s father, Dick Holden says…‘Adam put his arm around Richie and walked with him through the door, and then all the way to his class.’”
That incident speaks volumes about Adam Brown’s decency, maturity, kindness and courage years before he thought of becoming a SEAL. No doubt the many “random acts of kindness” performed by Brown over the years have left a lasting impression on many.
After Adam Brown’s death Blehm recounts that “If ever a story could come full circle, it was the headstone donated to the Browns by Dick Holden, whose business was making memorial markers and whose thirty-five-year-old son, Richard, was the boy with Down syndrome whom Adam had [defended] in middle school. When Dick told Richard that Adam had gone to be with Jesus, tears ran down his son’s face. ‘I miss him,’ Richard replied, ‘I miss Adam Brown.’”
I believe that Blehm, whose previous book, “The Only Thing Worth Dying For,” was a NYT and WSJ bestseller, has hit another one out of the park with “Fearless.” Blehm not only gives an informative and moving account of Adam Brown’s life, and death, but he also explains the particulars of the process involved in becoming a member of SEAL Team SIX (aka DEVGRU [Development Group], aka NSWDG [Naval Special Warfare Development Group]) in superlative detail—without compromising security.
“Fearless” is brimming with one “snapshot” after another of Adam Brown’s life—but perhaps none is as moving as the account of his death. Blehm writes, “Even with the knowledge that Adam was ready—body and soul—to give up his life in the line of duty, the final chapters of this book were heartrending to write. I knew what was coming, but I hoped for a different outcome…somehow.”
SEAL Heath Robinson (later killed in the 2011 chopper crash) described the op in which Adam Brown died, “It was a bad situation, and our scale for what is a bad situation is significantly different than normal people’s. A bad situation for us is catastrophic for most people. So yeah, it was not a good place to be in.” After he was shot, the efforts of his team-mates to get Adam back to base so that he could receive proper medical treatment was nothing short of heroic.
All to no avail, of course—Adam Brown had been mortally wounded. The same faith that elevated and supported Adam, allowed his family to endure the shock and loss of his passing. This life, from a spiritual point of view, is not just about, or even primarily about, this life—it is about what comes after this life.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the great importance that faith played in Adam Brown’s life—he was very spiritual indeed. A short exchange between he and fellow SEAL Dave Cain is enlightening in this regard:
Blehm describes the brief exchange—“‘Man,’ Dave said, ‘I don’t understand how you can do what we do and be religious.’ ‘One, I’m spiritual, not religious,’ Adam replied. ‘And two, I can’t believe you can do what we do and not be.’”
Before ending, let me mention why I chose May 24 to publish this article: It is because the number 24 held special significance for Adam and his wife Kelley. I chose May 24 to post my article as a small way of showing my heartfelt appreciation for Adam Brown’s sacrifice. (It is perhaps of passing interest that the late humorist Douglas Adams [of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame] named the number 42 [the inverse of 24] as the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything”).
In closing, I extend my condolences and best wishes to the Brown families—Godspeed to you all—and kudos to Eric Blehm for an outstanding job. Last but certainly not least, a respectful salute and hooyah to Chief Brown. I highly recommend “Fearless”—it is a first-rate account of a true American hero.