News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 30, 2009

Sgt. Dale R. Griffin: 1980-2009 — ‘He wanted to make a difference’

Gene, Dona talk about life of son

TERRE HAUTE — It was earlier this month when U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Griffin, 29, last spoke with his mother on the telephone. He was calling from Afghanistan where he was serving as part of operation Enduring Freedom. It was not an ordinary call.

“He wanted to be sure that we knew how much he loved us,” said Dale’s mother, Dona, speaking in her southern Vigo County home Friday afternoon. In that conversation, Dale asked his mother why people always seem to have to lose something or someone before they realized what they had lost.

“He said he was passing up a free vacation to Australia” to come home for Thanksgiving, Dona said. “That’s how much I love you,” he said.

Then, on Tuesday, Dale Griffin and six other U.S. Army soldiers on patrol in southern Afghanistan were killed by a roadside bomb. An Afghan civilian was also killed in the blast.

Several hours later, just before midnight, Gene and Dona Griffin learned their son’s fate. There was a knock on the door of their home and two uniformed members of the U.S. military very compassionately broke the terrible news.

Coming Home

Sgt. Griffin’s body was flown from Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and arrived early Thursday morning. Gene and Dona flew at the Army’s expense to Philadelphia late Wednesday and were driven to the base where they arrived around 12:30 a.m.

Prior to leaving for Dover, the Army gave the Griffin’s a document asking how much media coverage of their son’s arrival in the United States they would allow. They checked the third option, which was for essentially full media access.

“We wanted more people to know” how much each soldier had sacrificed, Dona Griffin said Friday. They had no idea how much that decision would affect their lives for the next 48 hours.

After arriving on the east coast, the Griffin’s received a telephone call to verify their decision regarding media coverage. They confirmed the decision and were then informed the President of the United States would be at the base for the transfer. Within a few hours, the Griffins met President Barack Obama and were able to speak with him briefly. Later, the president stood at attention as the caskets of all of the servicemen were carried from a military transport plane.

“I was glad to see that he made that choice,” Dona Griffin said of President Obama’s decision to meet with grieving families and stand at attention on a very cold and windy night at the air base.

In addition to helping people understand the sacrifice of American troops serving overseas, the Griffins also wanted to create relationships with and show support for – other families of lost servicemen and women, they said.

Dale had “spoken very highly” of the men he was serving with in Afghanistan, Gene said. All seven members of Dale’s unit were killed in Tuesday’s blast.

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    March 12, 2010