In the months following the death of Riverhead native Tech Sgt. Dashan Briggs, the community rushed to the side of his wife, Rebecca, and their two young children, Jayden and Ava.
Over four months, the community raised $45,000 for his family via a GoFundMe page, Lewis Street in Riverhead was renamed “Tech Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs Way,” and hundreds, from the Westhampton Beach Volunteer Fire Department to Briggs’ alma mater, Riverhead High School, lined the streets to pay their respects during his funeral in March.
Earlier this week his family received another round of support, this time through collaboration from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and Caliber Home Loans.
During a ceremony Tuesday at Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone’s Hauppauge office, Tech Sgt. Briggs’ family received news that their mortgage has been paid off in full.
At a most difficult moment in life, Ms. Briggs expressed her gratitude to both entities. “It’s just very comforting to know that there’s people out there helping all the military families, Gold Star families.”
Following Tech Sgt. Briggs’ death in a helicopter crash in Iraq in March, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation pledged to pay off the mortgage on the family’s Port Jefferson Station home to provide a sense of security and quell any housing concerns. Tunnel to Towers provides assistance to families of firefighters, police officers and other first responders lost in the line of duty and is named for Stephen Siller, an FDNY firefighter who perished in 9/11.
To pay off the Briggs mortgage, the foundation donated an initial $100,000 and began a fundraising campaign that garnered support nationwide.
The family was presented a check for $33,000 on behalf of Joseph P. Ferraro, branch manager of Caliber Home Loans in Melville. It was the final contribution to satisfy the mortgage payment entirely.
“We know that through the work we have done through fallen first responders that taking the pressure off of having a mortgage makes a significant difference in the lives of the families of these fallen heroes,” said Frank Siller, chairman and CEO of Tunnel to Towers.
It means the world to Ms. Briggs, who can now face the future with peace of mind. “It’s nice to know that we can be able to stay in our home forever, where our memories were made,” she said. “I won’t have to work multiple jobs and I can be there for my kids. I’m forever grateful.”
Mr. Bellone issued a proclamation to Tunnel to Towers for their support of military and first responders. “Today we honored the family of a man, a husband, a father, a soldier and a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice to his country,” Mr. Bellone said. “Technical Sergeant Briggs served us all and now it is we who must honor his service.” A 2007 graduate of Riverhead High School, where he was a standout football player and member of the lacrosse team, Tech.Sgt. Briggs was a full-time member of the Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.
Tech Sgt. Briggs was among seven military personnel who perished in the crash of the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in western Iraq near the Syrian border. He and three others aboard the aircraft — Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City and Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack were members of the 106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing.
(Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation courtesy photo)