On the sunny Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, Lewis Street in Riverhead was filled with friends of Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs of the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, all there to witness the changing of the name of his childhood home to “Tech. Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs Way.”
Tech.Sgt. Briggs was one of seven airmen who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq this March, four of whom were stationed at the 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton.
A 2007 graduate of Riverhead High School, Tech.Sgt. Briggs grew up on Lewis Street with his grandparents.
“I thought we were on the map, but now I know the Briggs are on the map,” said his grandfather, Eli Briggs, at the unveiling of the street sign adjacent to Millbrook Gables Park. “Keep the spirit growing. He was a good grandson.”
The 106th Rescue Wing’s Honor Guard also presented the American flag from Tech. Sgt. Briggs’ coffin to Eli Briggs and his grandson’s widow, Rebecca and their son Jayden and daughter Ava.
Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs was a 30-year-old special missions aviation flight engineer at the time of his death. He joined the 106th Rescue Wing in 2010. He had deployed to Afghanistan as a munitions system specialist with the 106th Maintenance Group, and to Texas and the Caribbean for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma as a member of the 101st Helicopter Rescue Squadron, one of three flying squadrons that make up the 106th Rescue Wing.
He and his fellow airmen were flying in a HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter from the 101st when they crashed on the afternoon of March 15 near the city of Al-Qa’im in western Iraq, where they were performing combat search and rescue operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the American-led coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
He was one of 12 local Air National Guard members who received the NYS Humane Service Medal in 2011 for their services during Hurricane Irene. He was posthumously promoted from a Staff Sergeant to a Technical Sergeant this spring.
One of his close friends, Jordan Harden, said Tech.Sgt. Briggs wasn’t much of a dreamer. He had big goals, but instead of dreaming about them, he would make them a reality.
He remembered how, in Junior High School, Tech. Sgt. Briggs would always invite himself over on Monday after school because he knew he would be able to make up a big plate of leftovers from the Harden family’s Sunday dinner.
“He was truly one of a kind. He was the first person our age who started driving,” said Mr. Harden, who remembered being awed when his friend showed up driving his uncle’s Cadillac.
“That’s what happens when you’re responsible,” Tech. Sgt. Briggs had told him.
“He was always traveling, exploring, looking to meet new people, looking to better himself,” said Mr. Harden. “When Briggs wanted something he went out and got it.”
“He wanted a higher purpose in life, and I believe he found that when he joined the Air Force,” said Mr. Harden. “I’m still striving to be just like Briggs. He was always giving me motivation to better myself.”
Don’t spend too much time dreaming. Go out there and do what you gotta to do to accomplish your goals,” he said. “Whenever you want to do something special, when you’re striving for excellence, if you do it big, if you want to take it a step further like Dashan did, you can do it Briggs. I challenge you all out there, even you, Jayden, do it Briggs.”
“We honor those who fall, and we also honor their family, friends and neighbors. When one person serves, their entire family serves, and as you can see here today, their entire community serves,” said Congressman Lee Zeldin. “This is a classy, important decision made by Riverhead Town.”
“It takes strength to leave your family and go into the unknown,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. “Honor Dashan by reaching out to help someone in need…. Remember the man. He did what he could do to make this world better.”