JEROME — Dan Brown’s daughters will never know their father. But he’ll live forever at Gale Forsythe Park in Jerome.
Hundreds of people came to the park on Saturday for the unveiling of a statue honoring the Jerome native who died in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Sgt. Brown was killed on March 24, 2012, by an improvised explosive device, leaving behind his wife, Jordan, and two daughters, Mattie and Marlee, who were 3 months old at the time and who he never met. The sculpture, made by Salt Lake City artist Lena Toritch, depicts Brown high-fiving an Afghani boy. Behind it is a wall bearing the names of the 68 Idaho soldiers killed since Sept. 11, 2001, most in Iraq, some in Afghanistan.
Toritch told the crowd making a sculpture is more than just capturing a person’s likeness — she tries to convey who they are.
“When you work on it month after month, it’s like creating a baby,” she said. “You get so attached to it.”
Lt. Col. Dennis Stitt, commander of the 116th Engineering Battalion, said people join the military not because they enjoy fighting, but because “they were called to be part of a cause much larger than themselves.”
“They make their own bodies a barricade against our nation’s adversaries,” said Capt. John Martinez, the chaplain who delivered the news to Brown’s parents in 2012.
Brown’s father, Jerry Brown, was the driving force behind the creation of the monument. Speaking to the crowd and thanking everyone who had helped, Brown recounted the night his son was killed, how he argued with another sergeant about who would check on that IED. Brown said he was so proud of his son, who said, “I’m going to go before you. I’m going to do the dangerous thing, and you’re going to be safe because I’m going to make sure you’re safe.” If he could go back, Jerry Brown said, he isn’t sure if he would change things.
“The heart of a soldier still astounds me to this day,” Stitt said.
Mayor Dave Davis reflected on how Brown used to play baseball in the field behind the memorial. He hoped people coming to the park will take the time to explain to their children what the memorial means, and thanked veterans for “preserving the opportunities we have to meet like this, and for children to roam these fields.”
Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, told the story of her brother, who served in Vietnam and died last year and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
“As long as there is tyranny and suffering in the world,” she said, “there will be boys and girls, our daughters and sons, who will strive to stop it.”