Shepherd’s Men on Memorial Day

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People entering the welcoming area of the Shepherd Center at the end of the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

On Memorial Day, my son and family, and members of my son’s Boy Scout troop attended and participated in welcoming the Shepherd’s Men to the final destination of their multi-day run at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.  Members of my son’s Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew in Snellville served in the Honor Guard, posting colors (flags) for the event.  The Shepherd’s men are military veterans – both men and women – who raise awareness and funding to support veterans’ concerns, including those such as suicide, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder.

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Members of the Shepherd’s Men at the Shepherd Center following their 2017 Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

This year, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta was the final destination of the Shepherd’s Men Run that began in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the location where one of the airplanes from 9/11 went down.  Their multi-day run that ended on Memorial Day was also in remembrance of and to honor civilians who lost their lives in that plane crash. The Shepherd’s Men each wore a 22-pound flak pack, symbolizing the 22 American veterans who commit suicide every day.

The welcoming ceremony included speakers who were wives and/or mothers of veterans, including the wife of a veteran who had traumatic brain injury and came to the Shepherd Center for treatment and the mother of one young soldier who tragically committed suicide without showing signs of being depressed or suicidal.

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Members of Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew 548 from Snellville, Georgia as Honor/Color Guard for the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

Other speakers at the event included administrators of the Shepherd Center as well as an Atlanta City Council member.  There were also two singers who sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” to remember those who’ve died in service to our country.  Many members of the Atlanta Police Department, including those mostly riding motorcycles, also provided an escort for the Shepherd’s Men as they arrived at the Shepherd Center.

The event was poignant, memorable, and sensitive to veterans and their families who are experiencing struggle with physical and mental illnesses, and those who have experienced personal loss and grief.  It was nice to be present and be a supporter of this event and cause that is so important for the support of our veterans and their families.

Memorial Day: Remembering my Distant Cousin, David I. Briggs (1947-1968), Soldier in Vietnam (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

David I. Briggs, U.S. Army Service Photo, 1968

David I. Briggs, U.S. Army Service Photo, 1968 (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from http://www.virtualwall.org)

David I. Briggs, a distant cousin of mine, was a man who I never knew, but whose pain for his loss I felt through the hearts and spirits of his family – his mother, father, and sisters.  David was the only son of Ivan Francis Briggs (1907-2000) and Louise (Gullo) Briggs (1915-1997) of North Collins, New York.  He was 21 when he and most members of his battalion (C Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division) were killed in heavy gunfire in Tay Ninh, Vietnam on November 23, 1968 (Small, 2001).

It is my understanding from having read an article in the Hamburg Sun, that David’s battalion invaded an opposing forces’ base camp, but underestimated their strength (Gordon, 2012).  David and his captain were the first to have sacrificed their lives in that invasion (Gordon, 2012).  Thirteen men of the battalion were killed on that November day (Small, 2001).

Vintage Memorial Day Remembrance (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from www.crazywebsite.com)

Vintage Memorial Day Remembrance (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from http://www.crazywebsite.com)

I met my distant cousins, Ivan, Louise, and one of their twin daughters, in my early to mid-teens while visiting them in North Collins, New York.  Louise was a wonderful cook, and it is said that it is one of the reasons that Ivan married her.

From what I observed, Ivan and Louise also had a love for family.  Anyone who knew them could sense the pain and loss they carried with them due to the death of their son, David.  I remember after having first met Louise and Ivan that I asked my parents about the sense of deep sadness in them that I felt, and discovered that they still grieved the loss of their son, David.

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

At that time, I was astounded to know that Ivan and Louise still grieved for David after so many years, and realized that he was very much loved by them. I believe they carried that sense of grief and sadness in themselves from the time that David was killed until their own deaths.  When I met them, nearly 20 years had passed, and they were still hurting from his death. Family said that it broke Louise’s heart when David was killed; she was never the same after that.

So, while I never knew David, nor, I believe, any men who have been killed during the course of duty in war, I know that they will always be remembered for their bravery and for giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. May we remember and honor all those who have gone before us, who have given their lives to make this world a better place. May God bless you, David, and may you rest in peace.

References:

Gordon, C. (July 13, 2012). Traveling Vietnam wall coming to Eden, Briggs remembered. Hamburg, NY: The Sun. Retrieved May 25, 2015.  http://www.thesunnews.net/news/916-Traveling_Vietnam_Wall_coming_to_Eden,_Briggs_remembered.html

Small, L.R. (2001). David Ivan Briggs. VirturalWall.org. Retrieved May 25, 2015. http://www.virtualwall.org/db/BriggsDI01a.htm