Patriotic Duty

In honoring his brother, David Griffith finds his own calling  

Part of growing up is deciding what you stand for and what you believe. For David Griffith, that’s grown into a determination to share a message of patriotism and hope.

A Boy Scout from a Fuquay-Varina family with a long tradition of military service, David has led the campaign for the construction of the DG War on Terror Memorial to honor his big brother, Maj. Samuel Mark Griffith, and all the fallen heroes of this longstanding conflict.

“If you didn’t know us, you’d think we were father and son,” David said of the 21-year age difference between himself and Sam. “I didn’t grow up with Sam, but Sam made it a point to grow up with me.

“When Sam was in training, getting his wings, he’d sit me on his lap and show me all the control panels. He gave me advice about Scouts, about being bullied at school,” David said. “The hardest thing is that I don’t have him to go to anymore. Now I have to be that person.”

Dedicated this past June at Veterans Park in Holly Springs, David’s pentagon-shaped granite memorial, a nod to the events of 9/11, stands surrounded by the flags of each branch of the U.S. military. Sam’s photo is inscribed in the granite, along with the names of other local soldiers who have died in the fight. 

David, a member of Fuquay-Varina Troop 320, raised more than $30,000 to build the monument as his Eagle Scout project. To top it, he secured a cube of steel from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, set on a skyward-pointing mount.

“The steel came from the core beam of Tower Two, the last piece of steel to fall from the World Trade Center,” David explained. “It has many meanings, but number one is to show that though other people may try to knock Americans down, we will always get back up and fight.”

Now 18, a rising senior at Harnett Central High and member of his school’s Senior Beta Club, David understands that concept well.

“In 2011, I was just a teenager, trying to be popular and fit in,” he said. Fond of American history and art, he planned to pursue a career in animation, and use it to make people smile.

“But on Dec. 15, the day after Sam died, I realized I couldn’t be a kid anymore. I needed to make my own decisions and shape my life, and be a role model to two little boys, my nephews, who lost their dad,” he said.

“In building this memorial with the community I’ve learned about leadership, and now I know I have the ability to go on and do great things, in the military and possibly in politics.”

While learning military fundamentals as a JROTC cadet, David is working toward admittance to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, with plans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I feel I have an obligation, in my family’s honor and in honor of our country, to go and serve. It’s a duty I intend to live up to,” he said.

While he watches some of his classmates look forward to the “freedoms” of being 18, such as a first cigarette or tattoo, David says he has no intention of doing anything that could hinder his plans. 

“War never hit home to me till Sam died. Now it’s something everyone needs to know about,” he said. “If we forget the people defending our freedom, we forget what America was built on — we fight for what we believe.

“I’ve stopped taking certain things for granted. Now I try to live the best I can. Sam knew what he wanted, went out and got it, and felt he could accomplish things; I live by that philosophy.

“The biggest message of the memorial is to understand that a 17-year-old was able to build it and bring the community together to say thanks and to honor those who are fighting,” David said. “Just imagine what we could do if we bring the whole country together, if we rally around the belief that we can accomplish anything.”

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