After 20 years, the War in Afghanistan has ended tragically. President Joe Biden’s incompetent exit strategy has left 13 service members dead and an unknowable number of American citizens and allies stranded in a country now under the rule of Islamic terrorists.
The unfolding disaster has left many Americans in despair, fearful that thousands of American soldiers, who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, died for nothing.
In spite of the self-interested and short-sighted politicians, our troops worked tirelessly to defend the United States and make a positive change in Afghanistan. The stories of these everyday Americans is what will bring us clarity and hope as we exit the post-9/11 era and move forward.
One of those people was Adam Brown, whose life and legacy is one of patriotism, redemption, family, selfless love, and faith in God. He was a member of Navy SEAL Team Six, but his path into the elite fighting force was anything but conventional. This is the story of how one man went from a drug-addicted felon to a devout Christian and American hero.
Story of Adam Brown
Adam Lee Brown was born on February 5, 1974, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to a working-class family. Growing up, he was well-mannered and hard-working — a classic all-American boy. He was the type of kid no one wanted to face on the football field but who also would climb up into his mother’s lap to cuddle well into elementary school.
Despite being described by his Pee Wee tackle football coach as “not much bigger than a number two pencil,” Adam was fearless. He even earned the nickname “Psycho” for taking on the biggest players on his fifth-and-sixth-grade football team.
[When he was in eighth grade,] 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 had 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, then all the way to his class. Richie never forgot that, and I remember thinking, ‘That Brown boy — he’s something special.’”
Less than a decade later, Adam was only a shadow of the daring yet kind kid he used to be. His promising future was smoked or injected away. He stopped hanging out with his old friends and showing up on time (if at all) for work. He spent his days loaded in crack houses and stole from his friends and family to buy more drugs.
High on crack at a party on New Year Eve, Adam repeatedly stabbed himself in the neck with a knife. Police found him lying in a pool of his own blood. They also discovered his outstanding warrants. Adam was facing 11 felonies, massive jail time, and a family that was fed up with his addictive behavior.
Hitting rock bottom turned out to be the answer to his parents’ prayers. When the judge gave Adam the choice between rehab or jail, Adam chose rehab and began turning his life around. At rehab, he found God, accepted Jesus, and became a Christian.
Three weeks out of rehab, Adam met his future wife, Kelley Tippy, a “a tall brunette with a girl-next-door face” who had a conversion story of her own and was also a Christian. The two fell deeply in love.
Adam and Kelley
Early in their relationship, however, Adam began relapsing in his addiction. He would disappear for hours and even days, forcing Kelley to chase after him and even search in dangerous local crack houses.
“How can I do this?” Kelley cried after his fourth relapse. “How can I stay with you?”
Despite everything, though, Kelley stuck by Adam because she loved him and because God told her not to leave. “My heart says stay and see this through,” she said after an ashamed Adam, who had just experienced another relapse, told her, “I’m not good for you.”
While Kelley was patient and empathetic toward Adam, she was not going to live with his addiction forever. Adam did not want to lose Kelley, and his love for her inspired him to be better, to fight his addiction with everything he had.
After more rehab and many relapses, Adam realized that what he needed was a life change. He decided to join the military with the hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL, the real-life heroes that Adam was first introduced to as teen when he saw the action-packed 1990 film “Navy SEALs.”
The process to join the SEALS and become one of America’s most elite special operators is no easy feat. After basic training, Adam was sent off to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S), which is arguably the most grueling military training in the world.
Not only is the success rate only 20 percent, but because of Adam’s past addiction, if he were to make a single drug infraction, he would be kicked out of the Navy and potentially locked away in military prison.
The stakes were high, but by his side Adam had Kelley, who had agreed to marry him. He also had his faith, which he called “his ace in the hole.” Adam passed BUD/S, became a new father to his son Nathan, and was assigned to SEAL Team Four.
Adam sustained many injuries throughout his career, including losing his right dominant eye after being shot with a sim round during a training accident. Not only did Adam refuse to be medically discharged from the military, but he learned to shoot with his left eye and passed SEAL sniper school.
During a 2005 deployment in Afghanistan, Adam was caught in a convoy accident that crushed his right hand. His “fingers were dangling by skin and tendons, every digit but the thumb severed,” Blehm wrote.
Adam’s hand after the accident
Without his dominant hand and dominant eye, Adam did the unimaginable: He decided to join SEAL Team Six, one of the United States military’s primary Tier 1 special mission units.
Never letting his injuries stop him, Adam learned to work with his left hand and became the first SEAL in history to be a member of SEAL Team Six with one eye.
As a member of SEAL Team Six, Adam deployed to Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley and many cities and villages across Iraq. He fought terrorism by doing his duty, going on nightly raids and chasing IED bomb-makers, but he also took it upon himself to help the people he encountered.
After noticing that Afghan children were walking in sandals or their bare feet with snow coming, Adam couldn’t stand by and do nothing. When Kelley asked what he wanted in his care package, he asked only for shoes for the children. “I can’t stand it,” Adam told Kelley, who by this time had given birth to their second child, a daughter named Savannah. “It makes me think of our kids,” Adam continued. “It’s almost winter, and I haven’t seen them wearing anything but sandals. They have got to be freezing.”
Adam and the children of Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley
Along with Adam’s mother, Kelley organized a shoe drive. Adam ended up distributing more than 500 pairs of shoes and socks to the children of Kunar Province.
Adam Brown’s Example of Fearlessness
Adam’s last deployment was in March of 2010. He and his teammates were tasked with killing or capturing a high-value Taliban leader. The target was credited with the deaths of many allied forces and was believed to be planning an attack on a U.S. Army battalion.
During their mission in a Taliban stronghold located in the mountains of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush, Adam and his teammates came under heavy enemy fire. Adam was hit in both legs. Once he was down, more enemy bullets rained down on him. He was taken out of the line of fire by his teammates, but he tragically died later that day at the base.
“I’m not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this Earth because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me,” Adam wrote in a letter to his children on a previous deployment. “No matter what, my spirit is given to the Lord and I will finally be victorious.”
As heartbreaking as his story is, Adam’s life should serve as inspiration for all of us. He is the embodiment of American heroism — a man who gave everything to fight for his soul, his marriage, his children, and his country. While today’s Afghanistan disaster is an insult to the ultimate sacrifice of Adam and many others who came before and after him, we cannot lose hope.
It is no accident that his immortalizing biography is titled “Fearless.” While our leaders have failed us, it is our job as citizens to hang onto our faith in God and our love of country. We must fight for the soul of America, never giving her up to the evils who seek to destroy her from outside and within. We too must be fearless.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
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