I dedicate this blog to my brother-in-law, Captain Richard Henry Briggs, a marine pilot who died on June 5, 1974. I dedicate this blog to all soldiers, men and women who have put their lives on the line.
Richard’s death taught me many things. He lived his life fully: laughing, pushing the limits, smiling, being kind, being a team player. He also taught me about peace. He only had 28 years on this earth, but he lived his time here to its fullest.
He was known to most of us as Rick; his wife, Marv called him Richard. Rick was one of the soldiers who never killed anyone, or was even deployed to a foreign war. He was a pilot who trained on one of the most difficult planes to fly, the Harrier. He was the first Harrier pilot who died learning to fly it. Three more pilots died after Rick. The first generation Harrier was later no longer flown by the Marines. That plane had had many inadequacies. Rick paid the ultimate sacrifice during the middle of the Cold War. The photo of Rick is from the Naval Academy where he graduated in 1969.
I was in shock when he died. I was getting ready for my 27 birthday when Rick died. Reviewing the pain and loss of Rick has not been easy, but finally this
Memorial Day I went to a ceremony and celebration to honor Rick and all fallen soldiers. The photos in my featured image are from this Memorial Day. I felt deep compassion for families who have lost family members.
A friend from North Carolina, Peggy Cardenas Heller, also knows of the sorrow of losing her husband, Captain Richard L. Cardenas, who flew a F-111 for the Air Force and died in New Mexico on October 3, 1977. He, too, was training as a pilot when he died. A monument in Clovis, New Mexico honors the 115 aircrew members (including Richard Cardenas) who had died in the F-111 from 1967- 1996. On the website for this monument stood the following poem.
“For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon
They shall grow not old.
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun … and in the morning …
we will remember them.”
Since Rick’s death, I have often become angry when I learned about soldiers from the recent wars, being unable to get the medical help they need for PTSD, or any other problems related to their health. The Department of Veteran Affairs even recently declared 0ver 4,000 soldiers dead, who are, in fact, still alive. More details of this story are from May 26, 2016:
This is a podcast from Afghanistan where during the past 15 years 1832 soldiers, both men and women have died. Take a listen:
I try not to feel hopeless about what seems like our perpetual wars. I used to think that my brother-in-law, Rick, died in vain, but just yesterday I fully understood what a difference Rick made in my life. Now I stand up for soldiers and for 30 years have been an advocate for peace in a world where we still have a mindset that war is the answer.
However, I feel more hopeful that those soldiers with PTSD may get more help from something called Expressive Therapy, which is helping vets in the Boston area. This story appeared on PRI last week:
Today I was talking to my chiropractor while he was working on my back. I knew he was a former Marine. I told him the story about Rick, and he thanked me for sharing Rick’s story. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Matt (as we all call him) was in Europe working around the second generation Harrier as a Marine. The Harrier as it takes off is known for being one of the loudest sounds that exists. I found out today that Dr. Matt has a permanent injury from assisting with the Harrier during take off. We never know what our soldiers and former soldiers suffer, until we talk about them.
What happens to our soldiers who have died and are still among us, I feel all must be honored. They do not instigate wars. Some of the homeless people on the streets where I live are Vets. Since the Department Veterans’ Affairs is falling down on the job, maybe it is up to the rest of us to care more in whatever way we can. Even if it just by giving those Vets a smile.