Nursing Student Turns Tragedy into Purpose

When the husband of School of Nursing student Rebecca Briggs was killed in Iraq in 2018 while serving in the Air National Guard, her first thought was of how she could preserve his memory for their two young children.

In 2021, Rebecca founded the Dashan J. Briggs Memorial Foundation to honor her husband’s legacy and to keep his memory alive.

“Dashan loved to help people. The Dashan J. Briggs Foundation will continue to serve today’s youth by supporting future generations and teaching them to succeed through perseverance, hard work, and dedication — all traits Dashan embodied,” said Briggs.

The foundation holds an annual Run for Briggs 5K run and one-mile Kid’s Fun Run to help support the efforts of the Foundation. This year’s third annual event will, for the first time, kick off the Suffolk County Veterans Run Series as part of the Memorial Day Run. It will take place Sunday, May 28, in Calverton and is dedicated to Dashan as well as his six crewmates who were also killed in Iraq.

Dashan Briggs. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Briggs.
Dashan Briggs. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Briggs.

Dashan left two children behind: Jayden, now seven, and Ava, now six. Since the age of four Jayden has completed five 5Ks and two one-mile runs while Ava has completed four one-mile runs and one 5K since the age of three. Both will participate in this year’s run.

All proceeds from the event will go toward annual scholarships to students in the Riverhead Central School District, from which Dashan graduated, and Comsewogue School District, where Jayden and Ava are students. Proceeds will also be used to create seminars and workshops for life skills not typically taught in a high school classroom, such as CPR/AED training, car maintenance, finances and basic cooking classes.

Rebecca was inspired by her husband’s work helping others and enrolled in the School of Nursing. She recalled a time when Dashan was deployed to Texas during Hurricane Harvey.

“He said that he saved an infant, not much younger than our daughter at the time, from the severe flooding of her home, and the feeling it brought him to be able to save her was indescribable, and that even though the military can be so tough, it was times like that where it was all worth it,” she said. “Remembering this conversation with him inspired me to go back to school so that I could return to a career in healthcare.”

One of Rebecca’s professors in the School of Nursing approached her to ask how she could help support the mission of the Foundation. “She then spread the word to other professors and they jumped right on board and created teams to run the 5K, sent out emails to fellow colleagues, and reached out to organizations within Stony Brook such as Sigma Kappa Gamma and they decided to become Gold Sponsor,” she said “I was shocked and so excited. I not only feel supported by my professors and fellow colleagues at school but now I feel supported outside of school and it’s an amazing feeling.”

Visit the Dashan J. Briggs Memorial Foundation website to support the Foundation and the annual Fun Run.

— Beth Squire

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