Friday, April 24, 2009

In Memoriam...

SSG Darrell Griffin Jr. was a motivated and energetic soldier when he was a member of my Platoon in Fort Lewis, WA. He was eager to learn anything he could, to make himself a better soldier. That effort paid off and made him a better leader.

I received the news of his death when our former Battalion XO (then a Battalion CDR) was posted on my FOB and we spoke to catch up. Darrel was one of those soldiers you always wish to have, even though you may not realize it until it's too late. The distractions of a peacetime army often cloud the necessity of what is required of a wartime band of brothers.

US News and World Report conducted an extensive interview with his unit [and Darrell] just 18 days before his death.

Four days before his death, Army Staff Sgt. Darrell Ray Griffin Jr., an infantry squad leader in Baghdad, sent an E-mail to his wife, Diana. "Spartan women of Greece used to tell their husbands, before they went into battle, to come back with their shields or laying on them, dying honorably in battle. But if they did not return with their shield, this showed that they ran away from the battle. Cowardice was not a Spartan virtue ... Tell me that you love me the same by me coming back with my shield or on it."

A few days later, Diana replied. "Are you ok??? I haven't heard from you since Sunday and it is now Wednesday ... I know you said you were going on a dangerous mission ... I get so nervous when I don't hear from you ... phone call or e-mail ... I just hope and pray your ok honey ... "

It was an E-mail Griffin would never read.

The rest of the article:

A video and written word from Darrell's account of his Iraq tour can be found here:

His father, Darrell Griffin Sr. had vowed to finish the book his son had started. The pre-order is available on've ordered my copy.

I hope I have Kelly's permission to repost her words, as I do not have a way to contact her. It appears the blog this was taken from is not maintained but Darrell's memory should be.

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007
In Memorium

"our government officials often talk of the 'boots on the ground' in Iraq, most often forgetting that those boots were filled with thinking, living flesh-and-blood Americans"

"War is not just John Wayne giving an eloquent speech before he dies, but young men dying without a word and sent home with what is found of them."
(SSG. Darrell R. Griffin, Jr.)

The words above are words written by our dear friend. He knew what he was talking about more than most. His feet filled those "boots on the ground" in 2004-2005 with the 1/5 Infantry Battalion Bobcats and again in 2006-2007 with the 2/3 Infantry, both in Iraq. Darrell is the man who stood beside my husband through the toughest of times, who promised me before they left that he would take care of him as best he could and bring him home to me and our little girls. He kept his promise. But then, I knew he would. He was the friend my husband knew he could count on in any situation and his wife is the person that I could call at 3am when the fear of that deployment seemed overwhelming.

Throughout our lives, we meet many "good friends," friends we love to be with and friends that share many of the important events in our lives. But even more rare are those friends that we connect with at the heart, those who seem to know what our deepest fears and our greatest joys are without ever exchanging a word. This is the type of friendship that we shared with Darrell and Diana. Through each event in our life, we grew closer. We celebrated our husband's promotions, the birth of our two little girls, the addition of their "little girl," a whippet named Luna, and we cried on each other's shoulders during the tough moments of training deployments and a year long Iraq deployment. We laughed together, worried together, shared holidays and many a weekend BBQ together, debated the issues of the world, cried together, were outrageously silly together, supported each other, and gave strength when it was needed. We jokingly refer to each other as our "chosen family," meaning that while you can never choose your natural family, sometimes you get to choose to add some "adopted" members. Darrell and Diana are definitely part of our family.

When the guys of 1/5 Infantry returned from their year in Iraq, we both received orders. Duane and I PCS'd (Permanent Change of Station) to Eglin AFB in Florida and Darrell and Diana stayed on Ft. Lewis but moved to 3rd Brigade. Unfortunately, 3rd Brigade was preparing to deploy to Iraq. Just 8 months or so after returning from Iraq, Darrell deployed again with 3rd Brigade. Despite our distance, we have remained as close as family. Diana and I can talk for 3-4 hours on the phone without realizing it (much to our husband's chagrin) and when Darrell was home on R&R for 2 weeks, he and Duane spent hours discussing how to get back to the same duty station and be together again. We have spent the last 8 months of Darrell's 2nd deployment praying for his safe return to his lovely wife.

Diana and I shared pictures of our kids (hers is the 4 legged kind, and just as sweet!) and talked for hours about worries and joys and future plans. So, when she called me on the evening of March 21st, I assumed it was to dish about the latest and laugh a bit. What she said changed my world. She told me simply, "Darrell's gone." I knew what she meant but I somehow thought there must have been a mistake. There was none.

Darrell, the man who never left my house without telling me how precious my children are and what a wonderful mother I am, is gone.

Darrell, the man who never was in my presence without mentioning how beautiful his wife of 12 years was, is gone.

Darrell, the man who called me from Iraq when he could have called his wife, just to reassure me that my husband was fine after a close call, is gone.

Darrell, the man who rushed to the site of a battle when he heard that my husband's platoon was involved, who rushed to be at his friend's side without thought for his own safety, is gone.

Darrell, the man who told me that he would bring my husband home, that he wouldn't let my two little girls be without their Daddy, is gone.

Darrell, the man who sat on my back porch, drinking wine and discussing the issues of the world with my husband, or who did crazy, silly things with my husband that left Diana and I rolling our eyes in amusement, is gone.

Darrell, the huge body-builder of a man, who held my babies with a gentleness and reverance I have yet to see again, is gone.

Darrell, the man who could talk for hours about how in love he was with his wife, who still paused from speaking to watch her walk across the room as only newlyweds do, is gone.

Most days, it is a little much for me to comprehend.

In the month since he gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, many people have memorialized him. Soldiers, chaplains, reporters, family, and friends have spoken about his dedication and commitment to soldiering, his intense study of the world around him and the book he was in the process of writing. All of the things they have said, at memorials in Ft. Lewis, Germany, Iraq, and his native California, are true portrayals of the man he was.

Me, I am just his friend's wife. I know he was an incredible soldier and philosopher but I remember him most as the man who stood by my husband, who shared dinners with my family, who rejoiced in the birth of my children, who loved his dog Luna like a child, and who loved his wife Diana as if they were newlyweds.

In my mind, these things made him great. And they make him irreplaceable.

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