Some days are better than others. The joys from everyday life have made the loss of the airman easier, yet the anguish persists for those who knew him.
In the past 21 months, the family of Tech. Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs has learned to lean on each other and the community, which continues to honor his memory. Most recently, a street was renamed for Briggs, and a portrait of him was unveiled at his children's school.
Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, was one of seven killed in a March 2018 helicopter crash in Iraq.
“I'm still having a hard time dealing with it. Sometimes it hurts, you know. He will forever, ever, be in my heart,” said Briggs' grandmother, Gloria Smith, 68, of Manorville.
She and about 50 other relatives, friends and Suffolk County officials were in Port Jefferson Station on Dec. 18 to honor Briggs at dual ceremonies.
First, a portrait of the fallen airman was unveiled at Boyle Road Elementary School — where his son and daughter are students — followed by the renaming of the street on which he lived.
The corner of Bedford Avenue and King Street is now Tech. Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs Way.
"We want this sign to serve as a reminder to the community of this tremendous loss. We hope this will be a daily special recognition for the children that will help keep their father's recognition and legacy alive," Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright said at the street dedication. "He served our country with honor and distinction."
Briggs grew up in Riverhead and was a member of the New York Air National Guard’s Westhampton Beach-based 106th Rescue Wing.
Since his death, Briggs has had a Riverhead street named after him and a scholarship at Riverhead High School created in his honor.
His family was also presented a $33,000 check to pay off the mortgage on the family’s Port Jefferson Station house.
“I appreciate what everyone has done since this happened. The community has come together. I’m glad that his children, as well as myself, have something to remember him by," the grandmother said, wiping away tears. “I pray and ask God to give me strength. But you have to keep going.”
Those close to him have found that challenging.
“It's been hard, but each day gets better,” said Briggs’ cousin, Inesia Deschamps, 27, of Bellport.
Moving on has also been difficult for close friend Daniel Jones, 32, who said Briggs was like a brother.
"I miss him dearly. It's been very tough for me. But you work your way through it, you just have to live on through memories and all the good times you've had," Jones said. "I'm still going, you feel like you get better every day so long as you have something to hold on to."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone praised the life of Briggs at the portrait unveiling.
"I think this is a wonderful tribute to an American hero. And it's important for the students to know the kind of sacrifices that are made by people like Dashan Briggs to protect our country," he said.
Tech Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs
- A member of the New York Air National Guard's Westhampton Beach-based 106th Rescue Wing
- One of seven killed during a helicopter crash in Iraq near the Syrian border in March 2018