By Anthony Petriello
A Port Jefferson Station family received some comfort in the form of a fully paid off mortgage following the tragic death of their Air Force husband and father.
The family of Port Jefferson Station Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, 30, who was killed March 15 in a helicopter crash near the Syrian border in western Iraq, had the remaining balance on their mortgage paid off thanks to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation July 24.
Briggs’ wife, Rebecca, and two young children, Jayden and Ava, received a miracle in the form of an undisclosed payment in addition to $33,000 already donated by Caliber Home Loans toward the payoff.
“I just wanted to say thank you to Tunnel to Towers and Caliber Home Loans for doing this mortgage pay off, because it’s very comforting to know there’s people out there helping all the military families, Gold Star families, and it’s just nice to know that we can stay in our home,” the widow said to the media at the press conference.
Briggs’ family also received close to $46,000 as of Aug. 7, raised through a GoFundMe campaign launched by Andre Galarza, a close friend, former roommate and Riverhead High School classmate of Briggs’.
“I looked up to him very much, just because of the type of man he was — one of the realest people you’ll ever meet,” Galarza said in an interview in March. “As a person, he was one of the strongest people I know.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) recognized Briggs for his sacrifice in serving the country during the July 24 press conference in Hauppauge.
“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,” he said. “Technical Sergeant Briggs served us all and now it is we who must honor his service.”
Tunnel to Towers was established to honor the service and sacrifice of Brooklyn firefighter and Staten Island resident Stephen Siller, who died Sept. 11, 2001. The foundation “also honors our military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country,” according to its website.
All seven airmen on board were carrying out a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, an American-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. All seven military personnel onboard died in the crash of the Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.
Briggs and three others aboard the aircraft — Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches; Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City; and Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, 39, of Commack were members of the 106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing out of Westhampton Beach’s Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.