FORT CARSON, Colo. — Lt. Col. Richard E. Brown, chaplain, retired after 38 years of Army service Sept. 28, 2022.
The traditional retirement ceremony for Brown and his peers at Founders Field featured full pageantry, including the 4th Infantry Division Band, the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard and inspiring words from senior Fort Carson Army leaders.
Extended families, life-long friends, colleagues, former commanders and subordinates alike, attended in a show of respect, support and admiration but also to share and celebrate in what would be a seminal moment for the retiree they support.
For Brown, however, the ceremony brought exceptional meaning and clarity.
During this retirement ceremony, he was both a witness and a participant, as his daughter, Master Sgt. Cherish D. Long, also retired after 23 years of Army service.
That’s a unique set of circumstances in and of itself. Yet, it gets more extraordinary.
It turns out that Chaplain Ric and his wife DeLinda Brown have 10 daughters, including Long. And all are adults.
The now retired Army chaplain met his wife, the daughter of his first sergeant at the time, 36 years ago.
The couple soon married and had planned to raise children, except a medical condition prevented them from doing so. Eventually, the expensive nature and low success rate of fertility treatments of the time led them to abandon their natural parental plans.
Brown said traditional adoption procedures also didn’t feel right.
“We were left asking God what his plans for us were,” he said. “Then, (years later), Cherish came into our lives.”
The now retired Master Sgt. Cherish Long met Brown while he served as the chaplain for her unit.
“I was a young Soldier, and I met him while I was escorting my battle buddy to the chaplain’s office for counseling,” she said. “That’s when I started having conversations with my eventual mom and dad. They loved and supported me. And that was different.”
In the decade-plus years following, the Browns embraced more young adults who experienced the same emotions as Long. Eventually, Ric and DeLinda brought nine more “children” into their Family — all former Soldiers in Brown’s units. Following Cherish, they welcomed Rhonda, Jeanine, Tanya, Christina, Mandy, Lisa, Natasha, Heather and Savanna.
All their relationships started through mentoring and counseling sessions. And, each eventually grew to the point where they felt like Ric and DeLinda had become their parents.
“They all kind of have the same background story of just growing up a little rough,” Brown said of his daughters. “They needed somebody to love them and help them grow and mature. They needed guidance and a support network.”
During all these years, none of the daughters have ever lived with the Browns, but at some point, they all started referring to Ric and DeLinda as “Mom and Dad.”
“We finally recognized God’s plan for us,” Brown said. “We like to say God didn’t give us the box that most people get when it comes to kids. And there are people out there who just need somebody to care for them as a parent would.”
For daughter Savanna, simply referring to the Browns as mom and dad wasn’t enough. She grew tired of her friends stating that Ric and DeLinda weren’t her ‘real’ parents. That’s when she decided to ask the Browns if they would adopt her.”
“We had never heard of adult adoption before,” Brown said. “We studied it and found out that adult adoption was designed for people who were aging out of the foster-care system. Essentially, it provides a legal connection, which some people desire. It’s a legal piece of paper that shows what our hearts have already done.”
As of Sept. 28, the Browns have adopted six of their 10 adult children. Some have gone as far as even changing their names and obtaining new birth certificates, while others prefer to keep their relationship as is.
Long could have retired at her last duty station, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, but chose to retire here, along with her father and family, instead. Following the Sept. 28 ceremony, the wife and mother of her own Family, said her adoption by the Browns is in process.
“Really, I think there are a lot of young adults out there who are trying to connect with somebody, and they need a parental figure,” she said. “Then you have people like us, who understand that.”
She also believes that the military chaplain corps can be incredibly influential and helpful to Soldiers.
“Many people believe the Army chaplain is just not for them because they are not religious,” she said. “But what people don’t understand is that they can be an atheist and still seek counsel from a chaplain. I’ve heard Soldiers say they don’t want to go see a chaplain because the chaplain will only want to talk about God and going to heaven or hell, but that’s not the case. It’s important for Soldiers to understand that a chaplain is not there to force their religion on you, but to give you the counsel and mentorship you may need.”
Soldiers and civilians who would like more information about adult adoption can visit the Colorado state site at https://www.courts.state.co.us/Self_Help/adultadoption/.