JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
At first glance, the Air Force Basic Military Training graduation Feb. 8 appeared no different than any other, but it was a unique occasion, as a new heritage flight honoring an Airman who made the ultimate sacrifice was unveiled.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Griffin, a 728th Air Control Squadron combat controller, gave up his life for his country May 13, 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of a 500-mile long convoy moving from Iraq to Baghdad when his Humvee was struck by an explosive.
One of the Airmen representing the new heritage flight was Griffin’s son, Airman Basic Corey Griffin, who carried the Griffin Flight guidon during the ceremony.
“It felt incredible to honor my dad like that,” Corey said. “I’m so proud to get the opportunity to carry on his legacy.”
In addition to the new heritage flight, the 326th Training Squadron also dedicated a classroom in Griffin’s memory.
“There’s gonna be 6,500 Airmen and trainees that sit in this classroom and see his biography every year,” said Lt. Col. Jose Surita, 326th TRS commander. “His legacy will continue on to impact and influence our force, not only through his son but also this classroom and flight banner.”
When senior leadership decided on a name for the new heritage flight, Griffin was the perfect candidate, Surita added.
“He’s someone that embodies the integrity and warrior spirit we want in our Airmen,” Surita said. “We’re hoping the efforts we’ve made will allow his character to transfer on to our new Airman.”
While Surita hopes Pat Griffin’s attributes will pass on to many future Airmen, it’s clear his legacy has already inspired at least one Airman; as his son stated his desire to join the Air Force stems entirely from his father.
“I joined the Air Force to honor my dad,” Corey said. “I even decided to become a part of security forces because that was his first job.”
As much as it was a proud moment for Corey, it was also an emotional day for his mother.
“It's very surreal, but it’s also a level of pride I’ve never felt,” Michelle Griffin said. “It took everything I had not to just get up and run out there when I saw him marching. I was so proud.”
Initially she was a little bit hesitant when Corey decided to join, Michelle said, the support she received from Griffin’s military family reassured her.
“Dad’s military family is still so involved in our lives,” Michelle said. “Some of my closest friends now are Pat’s friends that I didn’t know before he passed. Their love and support has kept me grounded. My civilian family members didn’t quite understand what we went through. The military family we have gives me the confirmation that somebody understands what I’m feeling. I can turn to them and they guide me through it.”
While she admits remembering can sometimes be hard, she says they owe it to Griffin to keep him in their hearts, and live the life he didn’t get a chance to.
“That just means doing positive things, taking chances and understanding what’s important,” Michelle said. “In the military you can do all of that, and I’m glad that's what Corey decided to do. Even if I sometimes get nervous about him, I know he’s building his own military family already and he’s where he belongs.”