SARASOTA -- A bronze statue of an American hero, U.S. Navy SEAL Adam Brown, received a respectful send-off Thursday from Bradenton and Sarasota veterans as it departed for Hot Springs, Ark.
Brown was killed in action March 17, 2010, in Komar Province, Afghanistan, when his special-operations team was trapped by heavy enemy fire. Brown charged the enemy position, drawing fire away from other members of his team. A best-selling book based on his life, "Fearless," has been published, and a film is in the works.
Greg Marra, the Sarasota artist who sculpted the 600-pound statue, said he felt he came to know Brown in his studio.
"I feel like his spirit was in the studio watching," Marra said.
Were Brown still alive, he would be the first to admit he wasn't a perfect, having struggled with drugs and having served time in jail before entering the Navy. But he became known for his drive to be a SEAL, his bravery, sense of humor and for his love of the family he left behind, including a wife and two children.
The statue was commissioned by the veterans council in Garland County, Ark.
"I think the statue is awesome," said Howie "Hawkeye" Pearce, a member of the Patriot Guard motorcycle group, which escorted the statue through Sarasota and Manatee counties. "It's an honor to be here."
Brown's family indicated the statue captured the essence of Adam Brown. They flew into town and checked on the statue, pronouncing it a "spitting image," Marra said.
Matt Erny, Sarasota County veteran of the year and a member of the honor guard from Sarasota VFW Post 3233, said his members take pride in what they do, including serving at funerals at Sarasota National Cemetery.
Jim Shaffer, captain of the honor guard, pointed to member Albert Gorham, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
"He still stands tall and handles a weapon," Shaffer said.
Marra called the sculpture and what it stands for bittersweet.
"I wish I didn't have to sculpt statues of wonderful people like Adam who died for our country," he said.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.