Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Darrell Griffin remembered

He was 6 feet 4 inches tall and solid muscle.

"Made Rambo look like a sissy," his father said.

But Stockton native Darrell R. Griffin Jr., 36, was all about flexing his mind.

When the Army staff sergeant was deployed to Iraq for a second time last summer, he brought with him the works of philosophers Kant, Hume and Plato, along with his beloved King James Bible.

And Griffin penned 400 pages of his own book - thoughts about the war and his experiences in it.

"He said all those boots on the ground have flesh and blood in them," his father, Darrell Griffin Sr., said this week. "He wanted to relate what the philosophers say about war, and what man can do to man."

The younger Darrell Griffin will never finish that book. He was shot in the head and killed March 21 by a sniper in Balad, Iraq, 15 minutes from the safety of a major U.S. base.

He will be buried Friday following a public memorial service in Porter Ranch in Southern California's San Fernando Valley.

Griffin's death serves as a reminder that, while officially 14 service members from San Joaquin County have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, an untold number of others may have had ties here at some point.

Griffin was born at Dameron Hospital and spent many of his childhood years in Stockton, attending Roosevelt Elementary and Fremont Middle schools before the family moved to Southern California.

In his death, he leaves two aunts and numerous cousins in San Joaquin County.

"The main thing he liked about Stockton was he's a family-oriented guy, and Stockton is a family sort of town," said Griffin Sr. a former Franklin High School student who was 17 when Darrell Jr. was born.

The family lived in a cramped trailer near Farmington. Their fortunes turned when California State University, Stanislaus, opened its Stockton campus, allowing Griffin Sr. to go back to school and become a successful accountant.

They ultimately settled in the Los Angeles area.

Griffin, a former emergency medical technician, joined the Army and reported to Fort Lewis, Wash., in 2001. His first deployment to Iraq came in October 2004 and was not without distinction.

When a vehicle in front of him ran into a roadside bomb, he rescued three U.S. soldiers and two members of the Iraqi army amid a shower of enemy bullets; he earned a bronze star medal with valor.

"I believe he should be acknowledged as a local hero," said his aunt, Sharon Scollard of Stockton.

Griffin went back to Iraq last summer and was due within a few months to return to his wife, Diane, and their 2-year-old whippet, Luna.

His loved ones last spoke with the soldier on March 13, his birthday.

"We were just amazed at how calm he was," his father said. "It was uncanny. He could sense something was imminent, I don't know if he knew what."

Darrell Griffin Sr. plans to finish his son's book with the help of a correspondent who was embedded with his unit.

"He said he was born to be a soldier," the elder Griffin said. "He said, 'If I don't go out and help people, then I shouldn't be alive.' "

From the Record

Related Link:
Darrell R. Griffin Jr. killed by small arms fire