SATHER AIR BASE, IRAQ
SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq -- All Airmen agree to lay down their lives for their country when they join the military.
Some have to fulfill that promise.
Those who make the ultimate sacrifice are forever lost but never forgotten.
Rather, Air Force members memorialize Airmen like Staff Sgt. Travis Griffin, a security forces patrolman, who lost his life April 3, 2008, while on patrol in Baghdad, when an improvised explosive device impacted his vehicle.
On April 3, a year to the day of Griffin's death, Sather security forces members and fellow Airmen gathered to remember and honor the fallen sergeant by renaming the base fitness center after him. What was once the Tigris Fitness Center is now the Travis L. Griffin Fitness Center.
"If you know Travis, having a gym named after him is fitting," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Burke, Griffin's friend who attended the ceremony from Balad Air Base, Iraq, where he is deployed as a 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron member. "He was definitely a [physical training] stud. Having a facility named after him downrange is a great honor considering, in six years, he was [deployed] five times. His life was being the tip of the spear for security forces. Being out there patrolling streets making sure there was a safe environment on base through his actions off base."
Griffin and Burke met in 2004 at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., which was Griffin's home station and the location from which Burke is currently deployed.
Griffin was part of a special unit stationed at one of Sather's forward operation bases, FOB Falcon, Iraq. He belonged to the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron police transition team, Detachment 3, and was about five months into his year-long deployment when he lost his life. His primary mission was training Iraqi police to effectively provide law enforcement to the people of Iraq.
Several Det. 3 security forces members currently assigned to FOB Falcon traveled to Sather to attend the ceremony. No one who was deployed with Griffin when he fell is now at the FOB, but Det. 3 Airmen attended the dedication to honor their fallen brother's memory.
"We came up here to help dedicate Staff Sgt. Griffin's memorial, today, who was on the previous [deployment] rotation with the police transition team here," said Maj. Nathan Schalles, 732th ESFS Det. 3 commander. "They brought the Iraqi police a considerable way, and it's an honor to pick up where they left off and continue on with that mission and progress the Iraqi police down the road of primacy."
The dedication ceremony took place on a cement pavilion just outside the fitness center. In front of the facility stood a table, which displayed a photo of the fallen sergeant and several items that pertained to his profession, such as a security forces brassard and beret and a battle helmet. Security forces members also had a Humvee and a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP, on display at the dedication, vehicles Griffin had operated while he was alive. Four military working dogs and their handlers stood between the vehicles, honoring their fallen comrade. More than 75 people attended the event.
The ceremony kicked off with the base honor guard posting the colors, and a 447th ESFS member singing the national anthem. Next, audience members heard the security forces creed, followed by an invocation from a base chaplain.
Then, Sather's 447th ESFS commander, Lt. Col. Steven Painter, took the podium.
"Travis was a truck commander of a four-person team, a position solely reserved for those individuals with acute leadership skills and an innate ability to multitask in a dynamic combat environment," Painter said. "He was training Iraqi police forces, establishing the framework for the empowerment and self efficiency of the Iraqi people - a significant historical milestone in a nation's rebirth."
The colonel never had an opportunity to meet Griffin but spoke about how, when he researched the late sergeant's life, he turned up countless recollections from people who hailed the fallen hero as a strong leader, a good friend and an exemplary Airman.
Burke echoed this sentiment after unveiling the new Travis L. Griffin Fitness Center sign during the ceremony.
Griffin may be gone, but he is not forgotten.
"I will never forget our countless heroes who have gone before us," said Col. Jon Andre, 447th Air Expeditionary Group commander and final speaker at the ceremony before the chaplain's closing prayer. "From this time on, those who work and live here at Sather will never forget the life, the spirit and the professionalism of Staff Sgt. Travis Griffin."
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This work, Gone, not forgotten: Sather memorializes fallen Airman, by SSgt Amanda Currier, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.