There’s only one thing left for David Griffith to do.
The 17-year-old recently finished building his Eagle Scout project in Holly Springs – a memorial to those who died on 9/11 and in America’s war on terror.
He raised money by selling bricks to build its base, then bought marble for the centerpiece column and even acquired a piece of the World Trade Center to sit on top.
The project, which has taken about two years to plan and build, will conclude on the morning of June 14.
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That’s when Griffith plans to hold a ceremony to dedicate the War on Terror memorial to his brother, Maj. Sam Griffith, a Marine who was killed in Afghanistan.
The date of the dedication is significant. Aside from being Flag Day, it would have been Sam Griffith’s 39th birthday.
The ceremony will feature a prayer, about five speakers (including David Griffith) and an unveiling of the memorial.
Griffith hopes to address a large crowd with an inspirational message.
He says the memorial stands as a testament to what a community can accomplish when people volunteer their time and money for a meaningful cause.
“We built it in less than a year. When you look at memorials in other towns, it takes years to complete them,” Griffith said in a recent interview.
He sold about 700 bricks at $50 to $200 apiece to pay for the marble, but he received a lot of the $30,000 he needed from private donors.
The show of generosity makes it easy for Griffith to imagine what such a gesture could look like on a grand scale.
If the country put more energy into helping its military, is it so farfetched to think America couldn’t one day say it won the war on terror?
“To me, it means taking care of veterans by sending care packages or helping vets with PTSD,” he said.
On one hand, Griffith says he’s humbled and proud to finally see his vision for a memorial become a reality.
On the other, the project’s completion will leave a void in his family’s life, he said, because it’s helped them through the process of grieving his brother’s death.
“We could take all the feelings and mixed emotions and put them toward the memorial to make something good out of it,” he said.
The memorial’s location deep in a residential neighborhood provides a perfect environment for meditation. Towering pine trees encase the memorial and the pond it overlooks from the surrounding houses and cars.
It’s been about 30 months since three uniformed Marines showed up at the family’s front door. Griffith, who was 15 at the time, said the news ripped through their home like an earthquake.
“It’s just like you see in the movies when people fall apart like a broken mirror,” he said.
Griffith says he doesn’t know what his family will do in the next phase of the recovery process.
As for the rising senior at Harnett Central High School, he plans to continue following in his brother’s footsteps.
Sam was the first Griffith to complete an Eagle Scout project in Holly Springs, he pointed out.
It was 1993 and Sam “went to all the homes in Holly Springs and provided smoke detectors for people who didn’t have them,” Griffith said.
Sam then went on to Penn State, where he graduated from the university’s ROTC program. His military career spanned 17 years.
In that vein, Griffith says he’s applying to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., with hopes it will lead to a career as an officer in the Marine Corps.
“I feel like that’s something that will help me grieve because I’ll feel like I’m helping others,” he said. “That’s what Sam did for everyone else.”
After pausing, Griffith added: “He’s shaping my life even today like he did when he was alive.”