Terre Haute, Ind. (WTHI)-
“Something like this can really paralyze a family; we’ve thrown ourselves into honoring Veterans and that’s helped us move forward.”
October of this year marks five years since Vigo County’s Dale Griffin was killed serving our country. Now, today his family is working together on a project that is huge for the county and very special to them.
Riding bikes was something the Griffins used to always do as a family. Their son Dale used to sneak out here to Fowler and ride on undeveloped trails.
“He had a very good time here in these woods when he was a younger man,” Gene Griffin tells us. “The very last thing we did together as a family is we went to Brown County State Park and we went mountain biking, it was right before his deployment,” Donna Griffin added.
So, when the Griffins lost their son in battle, they wanted to continue the memories they made with him doing one of their favorite things.
“To me, it was the perfect fit. Because now our son will be remembered here and not only that but we will have a memorial where we remember others that have fallen from our community fighting for our freedom,” Donna said.
A community the family says couldn’t be more supportive and caring even during their hardest times.
Gene says they are “very excited about the opportunities for everyone to enjoy, not only health and fitness but some economic growth wouldn’t hurt in an area like ours either.”
“…and we’re excited about giving back to our community because when we lost Dale, the community embraced us and continues to. When you go through something like this, you realize that not everybody lives in a really great community like we do and when you have a community like this, you need to do what you can to make sure that it stays that way,” Donna said.
One of the groups doing that with them is a company based out of California: Hilride Progression Development Group LLC.
“They said, we need to know, do you want a bike park? Or do you want a destination..we’ll take one destination please,” they said together.
Nat Lopes, trail planner, says they see all kinds of different situations in their developments and this one is especially touching.
“I hope that we can do something that makes them proud, and the community proud. We identified four concepts- freedom, family, friendship and community and that’s how we want to memorialize those fallen soldiers,” he said.
Through this project the Griffins and all of their family and friends involved have found a way to hold their soldier close and cope together.
“I all the sudden realized, as a family we just really kind of dove in and it has helped us cope. Because we are not only able to remember Dale and to hold each other closer but we’ve met all of these other families along the way who have had sons and daughters pay the ultimate sacrifice…It helps you put things back into prospective. It helps you remember that freedom isn’t free and people have to fight for the things we love.”
So, a lot is coming out of this project. But the main goal…
“Its important that we remember. If we don’t maintain a connection with those that have paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy…we, you know, we’re missing the mark.”
*Photojournalist: Gary Brian