FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Overcoming Adversity

with Kelley Brown | November 8, 2012
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Adam Brown had already overcome a drug addiction and trouble with the law. He joined the military and became an elite Navy Seal. But that, says his widow, Kelley Brown, was just the beginning of his adversity. He later overcame what, for anyone else, would have been career ending injuries. He adapted and continued thrive as a leader in the Navy Seals.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Adam Brown had already overcome a drug addiction and trouble with the law. He joined the military and became an elite Navy Seal. But that, says his widow, Kelley Brown, was just the beginning of his adversity. He later overcame what, for anyone else, would have been career ending injuries. He adapted and continued thrive as a leader in the Navy Seals.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Adam Brown had already overcome a drug addiction. He joined the military and became an elite Navy Seal.

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Overcoming Adversity

With Kelley Brown
November 08, 2012
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Bob:  Adam Brown never lost his amazement at God’s grace, how God had saved him and transformed his life.  As a Navy SEAL, he was not ashamed to tell others about his love for Jesus. 

Kelley:  It’s not the cool thing because these guys are rough and tough SEALs, and it’s just not common to be as passionate about Christ as he was.  He just wasn’t afraid to wear his faith on his sleeve.  I mean, he talked about it.  There was no denying.  He never tried to hide the fact that he was a Christian, and I know that had to be challenging on him. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 8th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Kelley Brown joins us today to tell us what life was like married to a man who loved his country and who loved Jesus. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  You know, one of the reasons that we wanted to have our guest join us today is because this week on Sunday we will be celebrating Veteran’s Day as a nation.  It’s appropriate for us to hear the story of a veteran and one who gave all for us. 


Dennis:  He gave his life for our country, and his widow, Kelley Brown, joins us here on FamilyLife Today.  Kelley, welcome back to the broadcast. 

Kelley:  Thank you.  Thanks for having me. 

Dennis:  Kelley and Adam were married for 12 years.  They had two children, Nathan and Savannah.  They live near Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Bob, I just have to say and turn to our listeners here at the beginning of the broadcast.  I don’t know in 20 years of doing broadcasting that we’ve ever offered a book like Fearless, which is the book that Kelley has co-authored.  I don’t know if we’ve ever offered a book with this kind of salty language. 

Bob:  Authentic, SEAL Team Six language, right? 

Dennis:  Basic training language.  It’s not sugar-coated, and the story isn’t either.  So, if you read the book, you just need to be aware of that. 

Bob:  The story, as we’ve already started to hear this week, is a story of a young couple.  You guys met and dated.  You learned pretty quickly, Kelley, that Adam was a drug user, and he wanted to get better but he kept lapsing.  It was kind of an on again, off again relationship.  At one point, he called and said, “I want to get clean, and the only way I’m going to get clean is if you’ll marry me.”  You said, “Yes,” and you guys eloped immediately. 

Our listeners hear that and go, “That sounds crazy.” 

Kelley:  It did seem like a very ridiculous move, and my parents were mad.  His parents were mad.  All of our friends were mad.  So, we just basically—we had the pastor of our church marry us.  It was—

Dennis:  Well, now, wait a second.  Didn’t you have the Justice of the Peace marry you first? 

Kelley:  That’s true.  We did.  We had the Justice of the Peace marry us when he came home on an airplane from Texas—sounds crazy, I know.  We had that.  We just wanted to make sure that we—

Bob:  So, he proposed over the phone.  Then, a couple days later—

Kelley:  Yes. 

Bob:  —you are Mrs. Adam Brown. 

Kelley:  I’m Mrs. Adam Brown. 

Dennis:  And your parents have no—

Kelley:  They have no idea. 

Dennis:  —idea? 

Kelley:  No idea.  Neither did his parents.  So—

Bob:  So, you come back—

Kelley:  We didn’t tell anybody.  (Laughter) 

Bob:  You come back around and do a church wedding later? 

Kelley:  We did.  Well, we—yes, because I never really felt married.  I knew that I wanted to have a pastor bless our marriage; and I think his parents were away on a trip.  He called them and said, “I got some news.”  You know?  “I got married, and I joined the Navy.”  So they responded with just complete, “What are y’all doing?” 

They didn’t want me to stay.  They begged me to leave him.  They were like, “Kelley, he’s going to hurt you.”  Then my parents—I don’t know if I ever really told them.  I was too nervous to tell them; but there was a friend of mine that actually saw it in the newspaper.  I didn’t know that marriage licenses were printed in the paper.  So, somebody got to them before me.  So, that’s how they found out.  So—


Dennis:  This is not good. 

Kelley:  It was not good. 

Dennis:  This is not good form, Kelley.  

Kelley:  No.  I know that.  I know that. 

Dennis:  I don’t care—

Kelley:  It’s awful. 

Dennis:  —if you are marrying ultimately a Navy SEAL. 

Kelley:  I know.  I know.  It’s awful.  I look back on it now, and I just—I made some crazy moves.  We both did, but all my defense is that I can say is that I had faith that God could change him. 

Dennis:  Okay, to that point—

Kelley:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —was there ever a moment when you questioned whether you’d heard from God and what did that—

Kelley:  Oh, yes.  I totally did. 

Dennis:  Because it was rollercoaster from there. 

Kelley:  You know, actually, it wasn’t really so much a rollercoaster from there as the fact that we got married and we moved away.  We moved away from Hot Springs.  So, we actually became a little bit more consistent.  I was basically his accountability partner. 

So, I did question the fact, though, whether this was God really wanting me to stay or if maybe it was my own selfish desires, my own desire to get things the way I wanted them because that’s—as a human, that’s what we want.  We want to control our lives, and I—

Dennis:  You made a covenant with Adam. 

Kelley:  I did. 

Dennis:  And then, you kept it. 

Kelley:  I did.  I did. 

Dennis:  In the face of some pretty tough stuff, you kept it repeatedly. 

Kelley:  I did.  I loved him.  I loved him unconditionally, and I knew going into this that there was going to be some problems, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.  With God on our side, it wasn’t something he couldn’t beat. 

Bob:  So, tell me about the first year of marriage for Mr. and Mrs. Adam Brown. 

Kelley:  The first year of marriage, we packed him up right away.  He left for Great Lakes, Illinois. 

Dennis:  Well, now—

Kelley:  That’s boot camp. 

Dennis:  Yes, I know; but that’s even a miracle because here’s a—

Kelley:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —because here’s a former felon—

Kelley:  Yes, yes. 

Dennis:  —getting in the Navy?! 

Kelley:  Yes, I know.  It doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t make sense at all.  We said, “Okay, if you even get into the military, this is a God thing because we’re not going to lie on your forms.  We can’t lie.”  There were some issues.  It just so happened that we had—one of Adam’s childhood friends, his dad was in charge of the whole Southeastern Division. 

Dennis:  Yes, yes. 

Kelley:  So, he took a huge risk on his name to let Adam in the military, and that’s because he knew Adam.  He just knew his heart.  His heart was bigger than anything. 

Bob:  So you moved where? 

Kelley:  We moved to Great Lakes, Illinois.  I stayed back while he was in boot camp because I couldn’t be there.  So, then, he decided to take an “A” School that would allow me to move up there with him. 

Bob:  How were the two of you getting along? 

Dennis:  Yes.

Kelley:  Outstandingly. 

Bob:  Really? 

Kelley:  To be honest, we were getting along.  It was great.  We had some of the best times during this. 

Dennis:  Okay, to that point, back to Bob’s question—to that point, high point and low point of your first year of marriage. 

Kelley:  Well, probably, the low point was when we got married, to be honest.  (Laughter)  Just because it’s ridiculous, and the circumstances surrounding that were ridiculous.  That was kind of a low point, and we wanted to go so much further than that.  I mean I can think of a high point as—I mean we had no money. 

We used to save all of our change, and we’d go down to the MWR.  We would have Pac-Man wars for hours.  It was great.  I loved it.  I mean he never won.  He would never beat me, and I loved it; but it was times like that and just the quality time that we had because there were no interruptions.  There was nothing else.  We were focused on what was ahead of us. 

Bob:  And he was clean? 

Kelley:  He was clean.  He was clean.  He wasn’t doing anything.

Bob:  No relapses? 

Kelley:  Nothing.  No.  No, not at all.  And that’s where I started to see this change in him and this drive.  Everything started changing.  It became about him and his wife and realizing the responsibility he had now; and it completely changed. 

Bob:  When did he begin to have his eye on Special Forces? 

Kelley:  From the beginning.  That was kind of his—that was the deal.  He was going to go be a Navy SEAL. 

Dennis:  I have to tell you the story of how in the world he became a Navy SEAL—

Kelley:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —absolutely remarkable.  Share a few of the obstacles—

Kelley:  Okay. 

Dennis:  —that occurred along the way.  You can’t share them all, but you’ve got to share some of the major, mountain ranges that he crossed to ultimately become a member of Navy SEAL Team Six. 

Kelley:  You know that question is a long question because there was so much that happened in between those years.  First, he graduated BUD/S.  It was amazing that he passed BUD/S—


Bob:  What is BUD/S?

Kelley:  —quite honestly.  BUD/S is Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL training tactics—stuff like that—which is a demanding physical and mental program.  It has a very high failure rate, a failure rate of about 97%. 

Bob:  Wow! 

Kelley:  So, for him to even become a SEAL was a challenge in and of itself.  I also became pregnant while he was at BUD/S, and we had our first child in 2000.  So, we had Nathan.  He graduated from BUD/S in February of 2000. 

Dennis:  Wasn’t there also in the midst of all this as he qualified for the SEALs—wasn’t there a relapse somewhere in there? 

Kelley:  There was.  It was early on.  Adam had, at this point, not even checked into a team yet.  He had made BUD/S, and now he was out in Georgia doing some static line.  They were jumping out of planes and learning how to do that. 

I’d gone to see him.  I met with him in Atlanta—flew over there, and he drove up from Columbus, Georgia.  He was at Fort Benning.  He drove up there to see me.  Then, I was flying back out on a Sunday night.  As he drove back in, I think that demon just started calling his name, and he had some idle time.  It wasn’t a good thing—wasn’t a good thing; but it was quick. 

Dennis:  You had a choice though—

Kelley:  I did. 

Dennis:  —Kelley.  Again, as I read the story of your courageous love for your husband, you hung in there with him.  You could have quit, but you didn’t. 

Kelley:  No, I didn’t.  That wasn’t—I don’t know.  I just couldn’t quit Adam.  I couldn’t quit this man I devoted myself to.  At this point—to say it all—he had two relapses in the military.  The first one he had been sober for two years.  Then, the next one he was sober again for another two years; but from what he went from, that’s huge. 

I know it’s bad, and he knew it was wrong; but I did—and that last time, I looked at him, and I did not know where he was.  This point, I had two children—I mean she was a baby.  She was an infant.  When he walked in that door, I said, “You know, Adam, I will not do this anymore.”  I said, “I didn’t know where you were.  Your friends were out looking for you.  This is wrong, and you—and this is not fair to me.  Now that you are a father, you cannot do this to these children.”  And I walked out the door. 

I wanted him to feel what it felt like those nights he was gone where I didn’t know if he was dead or if he was alive.  So, I did leave, and I let him wonder.  I showed up later, and he looked at me.  He said, “That will never, ever happen again;” and it didn’t—didn’t. 

Dennis:  There were physical limitations that he—

Kelley:  Physical limitations, absolutely.  It was in 2003.  By this time, we had already had our daughter.  She was born in 2002.  She was a baby.  But he got shot in the eye with a sim round—so, it was kind of like a paint ball round, but it’s live.  It’s live-fire. 

Bob:  He lost the eye? 

Kelley:  He did not actually lose the eye.  He lost a lot of vision in the eye.  He was only able to see some peripheral—maybe like blurs, kind of motions; but he did lose his sight in that eye. 

Bob:  I would think that’d be it.  They’d say—

Kelley:  That’s what most people thought. 

Bob:  But they didn’t? 

Kelley:  They did not.  He was passing tests.  He was doing things, and he was making no different shots than anybody else.  So, there was really no reason for him not to be fully functional as a SEAL. 

Bob:  This is pretty remarkable that he’s kicked drugs, you and he have gotten married, had kids, he’s advanced as he has in the military.  I’m just curious about what was going on his life at this point spiritually, because, as you said, he had kind of an early conversion experience.

Kelley:  Yes. 

Bob:  Then, Teen Challenge had kind of gotten him back on track; but it had been stop and start for him spiritually.  What was happening at this point in his life? 

Kelley:  Yes.  It had, but he recommitted his life.  He and his father went on a little church retreat—and this was right before he went to Teen Challenge.  Actually, it was in jail.  He was actually sitting in jail when he really met God’s grace.  This was after his hurting himself, going to jail, facing Teen Challenge.  That’s where he actually met God, I believe, was in that jail cell. 

In the process of Adam’s challenges, his parents said, “What are we going to do?  How we are going to make this work?  We need to go to church.  We need to pray about it.”  Adam’s—even in his addiction problems, that’s what eventually led to his parents accepting Christ as their Savior.  They went to church thinking they were going to help Adam; but when they got there, they realized that they were the ones getting help. 

Adam was very firm in his faith.  Even through our marriage, he was a very incredible spiritual leader in our family.  We did Bible devotions together every night.  We prayed together every night.  That was the center of everything for us. 

Bob:  Was there any conflict between what he was pursuing vocationally and walking with Christ? 

Kelley:  It’s not the cool thing because these guys are rough and tough SEALs.  Even the military in general—it’s just not common to be as passionate about Christ as he was, and he just wasn’t afraid to wear his faith on his sleeve.  I mean he talked about it.  He never tried to hide the fact that he was a Christian. 

Dennis:  He didn’t leave his faith at home. 

Kelley:  Oh, no, he took his faith with him. 

Dennis:  He represented Christ with children in Afghanistan? 

Kelley:  He did.  He did. 

Dennis:  Share with them what he did. 

Kelley:  It was so sweet.  Just—I would send him care packages a lot.  “So, what do you need for this deployment?  I’ll send you some coffee and all the little things you like.”  He said, “You know what?  Don’t even worry about me.  How about throw some socks and shoes in there, please, because I’m looking at these children; and it’s cold.  It’s so cold up here, and the terrain is terrible.  I just can’t stand the fact they don’t have socks and shoes on.  They need to have them on.” 

So, between myself and calling his mom and we got some churches and friends involved, we sent over—I guess, it was probably maybe 500 pairs of shoes that got sent over to Afghanistan to one of their locations there.  He’s in the middle of a war zone, and he’s passing out shoes.  That spoke so many levels, and the fact that he could share Christ’s love for us through that example—so, Adam was able to demonstrate that somebody out there loved them and cared about them. 

Bob:  Did any of your friends—because you’re friendly with the other wives in the unit—any of them have the car pull up in front of the house and deliver the news to them? 

Kelley:  Yes. 

Bob:  Tell me about what you remember; because I’m thinking of you as a wife, hearing what’s happened to somebody else’s husband. 

Kelley:  Well, you know, I’m going to try to go back a little bit; because when we were talking about things that he had to overcome, he’d been shot in the eye.  At this point, he’d already lost three of his fingers on his dominant hand.  So, I’m used to getting phone calls saying “I’m hurt.” 

Dennis:  The fingers on the hand, that occurred when his—

Kelley:  That was in 2005 when his Humvee crashed.  He was just on the passenger side, but he was holding onto the outside of the Humvee.  It rolled, and it severed his fingers.  Then there was another incident where he broke his leg, and I got a call on that.  I knew what those phone calls could entail.  So, I knew the depth of where this could go, but I knew that—I started to think that my husband is invincible. 

I’m like, “He’s going to be like the Bionic Man.  They are going to plug him up when he has to go somewhere, and he’ll charge up because all of his parts are going to be metal by then.”  So, he just kept overcoming. 

Even going through the selective process to be a part of the command he was—when he lost his fingers, I remember him telling me—you know he lost his dominant eye and his dominant hand.  Then, he was trying to go through the most selective process.  So, he had to retrain himself on how to shoot a gun, how to enter a house.  He had to overcome all these challenges. 

Dennis:  Right.

Kelley:  He was worried about—I said, “Oh, my goodness, your hand, your dominant hand.  How are you going to write again?”  He’s like, “Write?!  How am I going to do pull-ups for this team I’m supposed—I’m trying hard for this selection process.  I’ve got to be able to do these pull-ups and these push-ups.  How am I going to get my fingers to work?”  I’m like, “What about just writing your name out?!” 

Bob:  Using a spoon. 

Kelley:  Exactly. 

Bob:  Yes. 

Dennis:  It’s interesting you describe him as the Bionic Man; because as I was reading your book, I’m going, “This guy, he ought to be one of the Avengers, one of the superheroes.”  

Kelley:  My kids—my daughter really thought he was.  She thought he could fly.  That’s what she thought.  We just thought it was cute because she would see him come back, and it was just—when you say, “Adam,” it was not just Adam; it was Adam Brown.  Everybody knows him as Adam Brown because with that comes a huge multitude of just—he had overcome a lot, and he gained a lot of respect for what he did; but going back to your question, as far as the notification—

Bob:  Yes, knowing what could come. 

Kelley:  What could come out of it, I knew.  I already had that understanding, but it was a Super Bowl Sunday, February 4th of 2008.  I know because my husband’s birthday was the next day, and he had to notify the Hardy family on his birthday. 

Dennis:  Adam had to do this? 

Kelley:  Adam had to notify the Hardy family.  This was a side of my husband I had really not seen.  Friends and I were at our house.  We were watching the Super Bowl, and it was almost over.  He got a page, and he looked down.  He knew immediately what it meant.  The friends that were with us, he was also at the command.  So he knew what it meant.  So they hurried up home. 

I just sat there just kind of waiting to hear.  I didn’t know who it was.  I didn’t know anything.  So he just calmly said, “I’ve got to do something really hard tomorrow morning.  Will you please pray for me?  And just pray for me that I can be strong in this really desperate time.”  I knew something had happened at this point.  I did not know who. 

Then, from there, it was my husband was in charge; and at this time his leg was broken.  That’s the only reason he wasn’t on this deployment with them, but he’s having to prepare this funeral.  There were some before that, but this was such a huge part with Adam—Adam was part of it.  So he had to notify—and she’s a friend of mine, Mindy—that she had just lost her husband, Nate. 

Bob:  You know there was a period of time where you’d open your newspaper and you’d read about a casualty in war—

Dennis:  Right. 

Bob:  —and that’s not happening right now.  Yet, the casualties still happen.  There are still families that are getting news like that.  I’m thinking of Veteran’s Day this weekend, and I think we can kind of quickly move on with business as usual; but for military families, there are folks getting that kind of news all the time. 

Dennis:  Yes.  I want to say, “Thanks, Kelley, for allowing us to peer into this story and bringing more of the reality of real people who are giving their lives in war”—

Kelley:  Yes. 

Dennis:  --and your story really helps all of us realize there is a God of redemption.  I mean Adam’s life, your life, was truly redeemed.  I think many times, Bob, we look at people who are living out stories like Adam and Kelley lived, and we can kind of look down our noses because they’re kind of living on the edge, maybe where we’re not right now—

Bob:  Right. 

Dennis:  —but we were near the edge.  Every one of us is selfish and makes those kinds of choices.  We just need to realize that there is a God who is in the process of changing lives.  He still produces miracles. 

Bob:  I’ll remind listeners of what you mentioned earlier, which is that the book that tells Adam Brown’s story—the book, Fearless, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center—does include authentic, Navy SEAL language.  It’s unusual for us to offer a book that has that kind of language in it.  Yet, we felt like this story had a powerful, redemptive message, and this might be a book that you’d want to pass along to somebody who needs to read that kind of a story. 

So, go to for more information about the book, Fearless.  Again, our website,; or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information about the book—1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.  Ask about the book, Fearless, when you get in touch with us. 

Now, a couple weeks from today, it will be Thanksgiving here in the United States.  We’ll be celebrating the first Thanksgiving that took place hundreds of years ago as settlers from Europe came to pursue religious freedom in the New World. 

Their story is told in Barbara Rainey’s book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember.  Not long ago, our team put together an audio book version of the Thanksgiving story with dramatic narration and with sound effects, and we’d like to make that audio book available this week for those of you who are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We’d like to be able to say thank you with the Thanksgiving audio book for your support of this ministry. 

FamilyLife Today is listener-supported.  It’s folks like you who help us cover the costs of producing and syndicating this program—making it available online through, through our mobile apps, through all that we’re trying to do through the outreaches of FamilyLife Today

We appreciate your support; and we’d like to say thank you when you make a donation this week by sending you the audio book for Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember

Go to, click the button that says, “I CARE,” and make an online donation; or make a donation over the phone when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask for your copy of the audio book when you get in touch with us to make that donation. 

Be sure to be back with us again tomorrow as we’ll hear about Adam Brown’s final mission.  I hope you can be here for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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