Family, friends, neighbors and the Patriot Guard Riders turned out this morning for a dedication ceremony marking the renaming of the former Lewis Street as “Dashan J. Briggs Way” to honor the Riverhead native, a decorated airman killed in a helicopter crash in western Iraq on March 15, 2018.
“Riverhead will never forget the sacrifice of Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith told the crowd gathered at the corner of Dashan J. Briggs Way and Doris Avenue in the Millbrook Gables community where Briggs grew up.
“We will never forget the difficult choices he made when he decided to serve our country,” Jens-Smith said during a brief ceremony underneath the new street sign that bears the fallen airman’s name and rank.
Briggs was 30 years old when the H-60 Pave Hawk helicopter he was riding in crashed near the Syrian border, claiming the lives of all seven men aboard. Briggs and three others were deployed out of the 106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing in Westhampton. The Department of Defense said the crash was not the result of enemy fire.
He left behind a wife, Rebecca, and two very young children: Jayden, who was 2 at the time and Ava, who was just a year old.
Jayden will turn 4 next week, his mother said today. Ava will soon be 3. The two innocent tots stood at their mother’s knee this morning, munching on a snack of Cheese Doodles and Gummy Bears.
“They keep me going,” Rebecca Briggs said. “I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Eli Briggs, who with his wife Rose raised their grandson, Dashan in a modest home on Lewis Street where they still live, said the community support that poured in after the tragedy really sustained the family.
“It means so much,” Eli Briggs said. “The entire town has been so good to us,” he said. “People kept sending so much food, we had to ask them to stop,” he said. “Delis, pizza parlors, the fire department. It was amazing. We have a great town here.”
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio praised the residents of the former Lewis Street, who did not object to the name change despite what must have been a great inconvenience, “changing checking accounts and addresses,” she said.
The town first gave Lewis Street an honorary designation in memory of Briggs. At the family’s request, the town board in April made it official, after writing to every Lewis Street resident to ask if anyone objected.
A 2007 graduate of Riverhead High School, Briggs was a star football player and member of the varsity lacrosse team. Word of his death in Iraq last March 15 sent shock waves through the Riverhead community as the news spread the following day.
“He was a courageous man,” his uncle’s fiancée Yolande Toney said after today’s ceremony. “He had a young family and still he served his country and he died for it,” she said. “I thank him.”
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