An Odd Question

A while back, I was asked a somewhat unusual question on Quora, the quasi-social media question-and-answer site. It was, “Have any former crack addicts ever been on SEAL Team Six?” There was just one that I’m aware of, and his story is nothing short of amazing. When you hear this man’s story, at some points, you are proud of him, and at other times you are in disbelief at how self-destructive he once was and how much it hurt those who loved him. You’re in awe of the enormous obstacles he overcame to be one of the most elite warriors in the world when 99.9999% of others would have quit and felt sorry for themselves. You hear his story, and you laugh because he was a funny man, a big goofy kid at heart who wasn’t afraid to be himself in front of anyone. But, on the other hand, you feel pathos mixed with anger when you learn what happened when his demons would get the better part of him. Waves of sentimentality sweep over you as you read the heartfelt journal he wrote to his young children during his deployment to war zones.

Had I not known that he was a true story, I never would have believed it. I probably would have laughed at the implausibility of all of it. But the story is accurate, and so is the pain and pride people feel when they remember the life of a man named Adam Brown.

Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Adam Brown. Image courtesy of Facebook

I never had the honor of meeting Adam Brown, but after learning about what kind of a man he was, I feel that this photograph conveys a good image of what he was like. There were many images to choose from, but I kept returning to this one. Adam Brown was a walking contradiction: an incredibly loving husband and father who used to help teach his kids Sunday school class by pretending to be animals from Noah’s Ark, a battle-hardened Navy DEVGRU (aka SEAL Team Six) warrior and veteran of multiple deployments…and he was also a recovering crack cocaine addict.

It was Adam’s wish that someone would share his story with the world if he were killed in action. He wanted to be sure that his story would include (along with his heroic actions and successes) his multiple failures and his battle with addiction.

Adam was a pleasant young man who always respected his elders and would go out of his way to help other kids his age who were being bullied, even though he was on the small side. He was a nearly straight-A student in high school and a star player on his Hot Springs, Arkansas, champion football team. As one of his coaches said, “Brown wasn’t the biggest player, but he always had the most heart.”

He was a “please and thank you, yes sir, no sir” kind of adolescent that his parents could trust not to get too out of control while others his age were out doing stupid things that could have gotten them hurt or in trouble the law. That’s not to say Adam was quiet and reserved. His peers said he could be a “madman.” The climax of his daredevil days as a youth in Hot Springs was when he jumped out of the back of a moving truck as it sped across a bridge. Adam fell about 50 feet until he hit the dark river below. He mimicked a scene from the Charlie Sheen movie, “Navy SEALs.” Adam Brown, much unlike the rest of us, had no fear.

Down the Wrong Path

Sometime after beginning college, he became re-acquainted with an old girlfriend, Cindy, who had since gone on to develop an unfortunate drug habit. Adam, who up until that time counted southern whiskey as his strongest inebriant, through the prodding of his girlfriend, agreed to try crack cocaine. He later recounted that one time was all it took to get him hooked. Before long, it was all he wanted and all he could think about. He dropped out of college and spent all his time hanging out in crack houses with his newfound loves.

After a while of being high all day, every day, he switched from smoking the drug to injecting it directly into his veins. He began to add meth to the mix. When he attempted to quit, he would tell those trying to help him that the drug “called to him.” For the longest time, he could not, or would not, resist the call.