Planned memorial is brother’s tribute

akenney@newsobserver.comAugust 5, 2013 

David Griffith, left, with his brother Sammy in October 2011, shortly before Sammy's military unit was deployed. He was killed in action in Afghanistan on Dec. 14, 2011.

COURTESY OF CHERIE GRIFFITH

— A Boy Scout is collecting donations to build a memorial to veterans that will feature thousands of bricks, a marble centerpiece and a scrap of steel from the World Trade Center.

David Griffith’s Eagle Scout project will honor first responders and veterans of the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan – including David’s older brother, Sam Griffith, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011. He was 36.

David, 17, had always figured his older brother would be part of his capstone project. Sam Griffith grew up in Holly Springs and did his own Eagle Scout work here, installing smoke detectors in homes of the elderly, disabled, veterans and others in need some 20 years ago.

David looked up to his older brother and always wanted to match – and maybe exceed – his achievements, including his Eagle Scout project.

“He had an amazing project that he was able to complete,” David said. “I wanted to do something better than his.”

Now the brothers’ Boy Scout careers have connected them in a much deeper way. For David and his family, the planning of the brick pentagon and its marble cap have become part of the healing process.

“After my brother died, I kept a lot to myself. I didn’t really want people to know exactly how I felt,” David said.

It was his grandfather who suggested last August that the Harnett Central High School student build a memorial. Now the project has given David a way to express his grief. He has learned to tell his story, presenting his project to Reserve units, Boy Scouts officials, Holly Springs town leadersand the people of Holly Springs directly, via a booth at the town’s July 4 celebration.

Getting the local government on board took “about a minute,” David said.

The work ahead

He will dig the footer for the memorial, raise money for the project and collect the materials, while the town will help put it all together.

The memorial, 10 feet long on each side, will stand near the pond at Veterans Park in northern Holly Springs. It will be capped by a 3-foot marble centerpiece, and it will feature a piece of donated steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

To fund the project, David is selling customizable bricks through ThatsMyBrick.com. Sponsors are asked to pay at least $50 to place a brick, customized with their message or logo, in the memorial. Of that sum, $33 will go to pay for the memorial’s marble cap. At the end of July, donations to the memorial had reached about 20 percent of David’s goal (see box on how to donate).

After months of design, David is glad to see the project moving forward. He and his dad have laid out the steel outline of the project in their driveway outside Duncan, and David has won all the approvals he needs for the biggest effort of his life.

“When you’re waiting at home, just waiting for an approval for months, it almost feels like you’re not getting anywhere,” he said. “The ability to say I’m now working on my Eagle project is such a relief and such an honor.”

He hasn’t stopped thinking about his brother either – every day, David said. The memories are everywhere.

Sam Griffith left behind two young children, and his photos and medals decorate his family’s house.

And soon Holly Springs will have another reminder of him and his fellow veterans.

Staff writer Stacy Chandler contributed to this story.

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