By Ken Garot, AW2 Advocate
On April 16, 2005, three days after returning to Iraq from spending time with his Family in Iowa, SGT Bob Briggs was taking a break with several Soldiers waiting for the remainder of his unit to move to their location in Ramadi. With no warning of incoming fire, 110 mm mortars struck their position. Five Soldiers were killed instantly and many were injured. Bob was only ten feet from where one mortar struck, and the impact almost took Bob’s life and the lives of two Soldiers standing nearby.
After his emergency surgeries in Iraq, Bob was airlifted to Germany for intensive treatment for a severe head injury. He was brought back to life three times as the medical team worked frantically to stabilize his condition. After rehabilitation at Walter Reed, Bob returned to Iowa where these traumatic events would change not only his life, but that of his wife Michelle and their two children, Ashlea and Cody.
As a result of his injuries, Bob developed left side hemiplegia , or total paralysis of the arm, leg, and trunk on the same side of the body, that required extensive and ongoing physical and occupational therapy. Over the years, he would have his own dog, Pock, trained as a service dog to help him move without injuring himself. Bob remained active in many outdoor activities and events including bike riding and golf.
Bob and Michelle became deeply involved in Veteran’s Service Organizations throughout Iowa and the nation, and they were instrumental in the development and passage of an Iowa Grant Program worth up to $10,000 for Iowa wounded warriors medically evacuated out of the war zone. They were also the ground breakers for the English River Outfitters, an organization dedicated to providing all Veterans a place to relax and take time out to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and pleasant environment, free of charge. More recently, Michelle traveled back and forth to Washington where she served on a panel of Veteran Family members giving input into the VA Caretaker program that was passed into law and implemented in early April 2011.
Bob passed away on June 28 at the age of 42 from medical complications related to the injuries he sustained in Iraq that fateful day in 2005. His sudden and unexpected death shocked and saddened all who loved him and created a deep sense of loss to a larger community who came to know and admire the work he had done on behalf of Veterans like himself. Bob’s life exemplified the phrase “selfless service” so others might give hope to those who sacrifice to serve their country. Despite his medical struggles, he proved that one person can make a difference. His work will now go on through the efforts of Michelle and countless others who strive to make life better for those who gave so much.