Father's mission: Pay tribute to fallen son
People have a tendency to forget.
That pangs Gregg Garvey.
The grieving father, whose son died in Iraq this summer, decided he wouldn’t wallow in sadness this Veterans Day, or let slip the memory of his son.
He will mark this Veterans Day not only doing what the nation as a whole does — stop and remember the fallen heroes — he will continue work on a project to keep memories of those killed in this war alive.
The former construction worker has designed a memorial with a goal of having one erected in every hometown that has lost a hero in Afghanistan, Iraq and associated missions.
“It started as this vision of a dad honoring his son,” Garvey said during a recent interview. “What I want is to build, with my own hands, something for Justin.”
Twenty-three-year-old Sgt. Justin Wrisley Garvey was killed July 20 in an ambush when the vehicle in which he was traveling came under attack near Tal Afar, Iraq.
Sgt. Garvey, “Hobie” to his family, was with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. He and Sgt. Jason D. Jordan were killed in the attack.
The Garveys held a memorial service in Florida for Hobie Garvey. Then a funeral in New York. And a bridge will be dedicated Tuesday in upstate New York in the killed soldier’s name — a ceremony at which another soldier, Sgt. Doug Norman, who survived the ambush that killed Hobie, will re-enlist in the Army for a three-year stint.
Each event honorable. Each meaningful, Garvey said.
But not enough.
Grief, woven with inspiration and unconditional love, has spun a tapestry of dedication and missions to keep the nation from forgetting.
“[I had] just a feeling of total helplessness, and I sat [at the funeral] thinking, how many other parents might be feeling the same thing I was; whether war, car accident, drowning, it doesn’t matter, the feeling was just depressing, overwhelming,” Garvey said.
The memorial of an inverted rifle and helmet on a 20-foot slab of concrete also features an American Flag and plaque emblazoned with the honorees’ names and units.
“I just started thinking, the simplicity of it means that we can put one of these memorials in the hometown of every war hero who pays the ultimate price,” Garvey said.
Valley Forge Flags and American Bronze Fine Art Foundry in Sanford, Fla., donated the first five memorials, at a rough cost of $30,000. To raise money needed to get other memorials, Garvey is appealing to organizations such as nationwide chapters of Veterans of Foreign Wars American Veterans.
“I made up my mind,” Garvey said, “and I’m determined that I’m going to do this, if it takes the rest of my life.”
Lest they be forgotten
Information about Sgt. Justin Wrisley Garvey, his father’s promise, and how to request a memorial or how to contribute is available on the Internet at www.lesttheybeforgotten.org.
Donations also can be mailed to: Sgt. Justin Wrisley Garvey Memorial Inc., P.O. Box 1058, Keystone Heights, Fla., 32656.