Defender honors slain KAFB Airman with children’s book

Staff Sgt. Travis Griffin, a Kirtland defender killed in action, is the hero of a new children’s book written by Staff Sgt. Frank V. Aguilar, 9th Security Forces Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, California. The book memorializes Griffin and raises money for scholarships for Security Forces members and their families.


A new children’s book memorializes a Kirtland defender killed in action and raises money for scholarships for Security Forces members and their families.

“Griff’s Gift” portrays Staff Sgt. Travis Griffin as a mythical griffin who helps the animals at a run-down pet shop become their best and find homes. It was published in June.

“The story helps children learn and understand loss while simultaneously speaking deeply to those who have been deployed or knew Staff Sgt. Griffin,” the author, Staff Sgt. Frank V. Aguilar, wrote in an email.

Aguilar was a senior Airman at Kirtland Air Force Base in 2007, when he was notified he was going on a yearlong deployment to Baghdad. Griffin was also part of the group of about 10 Security Forces members who went.

The Airmen were training Iraqi police officers.

Aguilar said the defenders didn’t know each other well, but Griffin brought them together, helped them be their best and made mundane tasks seem almost fun.

On April 3, 2008, an improvised explosive device detonated under his vehicle, killing him. He was 28.

“It really shook us because he was a good NCO,” Aguilar said.

Nothing was the same after that, he continued. After returning home, the team members went their separate ways but maintained contact, still talking about Griffin years later.

Aguilar is now part of the 9th Security Forces Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, California.

His children — ages 10, 8, 4 and almost 3 — see him go outside with a photograph of Griffin each April 3 to reflect. However, they couldn’t grasp the importance of this man they’d never met, Aguilar said.

He’d already written three stories to help them understand grown-up concepts, so he decided to pen another about Griffin.

Aguilar finished “Griff’s Gift” in less than three weeks. He obtained permission from Griffin’s mother to create the book.

Aguilar said the story couldn’t be only about him and Griffin because Griffin touched a lot of people.

In the story, a griffin — the mythical beast with a lion’s body and an eagle’s head and wings — is small and cute to be accessible to children.

The griffin teaches the pets to work hard and be their best to win affection and new homes. The pets get adopted, but their griffin friend has to leave.

Thunder, lightning and angry animals symbolize dangers of combat.

A GoFundMe campaign raised a little more than $1,200 for the book to be self-published.

A former Security Forces member — also the wife of a defender who knew Griffin —agreed to illustrate the story at no charge. She uses the pen name Merl Fog.

“I was flattered to think I could be a part of it in any way,” she said.

Fog said she felt pressure because she knew a lot of people who loved Griffin and she wanted them to like the pictures.

She was pregnant with her fourth child at the time and had trouble finding time to draw. It took her close to a year to finish.

Aguilar said the illustrations were worth the wait.

“They’re beautiful,” he said.

Fog said it was different seeing her illustrations in book format, and it was important that her husband was happy with the finished product.

Aguilar said his children like the book, too.

The book is available online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

All proceeds go to the Griffin Memorial Scholarship, which provides college scholarships to defenders, their families and Security Forces veterans. For more information about the scholarship, visit

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Jose J. Sanchez, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Defender Magazine, USAF Honor Guard, Bolling AFB, Washington DC, 416th SFS, Griffiss AFB, NY, 89th SFS, Andrews AFB, MD