Life’s Mission: Leadership and Service
For Missouri State Representative Dave Griffith of Jefferson City, serving as a Green Beret with the 8th Special Forces Group in classified and humanitarian deployments to Panama, Honduras and Vietnam began to shape the life he would lead.
“When we came back from Vietnam, we weren’t treated well,” Griffith said. “It really hurt. For a long time, it wasn’t acknowledged we’d served. But the tide changed with 9/11. People value veterans’ service.
“Korean vets suffered much the same as Vietnam vets,” Griffith said. “Those guys were true heroes. My cousin served. Talking to him, the conditions they faced were terrible.
“When I was asked to carry the torch to work for a Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial, I was all in from the beginning,” Griffith said. “Monuments are something that stand forever. You can take your grandkids to the monument and say, ‘This is what it means.’ “
Griffith led successful Missouri House passage of Senate Bill 656 designating the Kansas City memorial as the official state Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial.
“Service is what led me to where I am today,” Griffith reflected, “the leadership skills you learn and the focus on the mission at hand. For so many serving, separating from the military is hard and too many fail to find a new mission in life. I guess I’ve been a volunteer all my life.”
In 2010, Griffith made his first successful run for elected office, winning a position to serve on the Jefferson City Council and learning how government works on a microscale. By his second term however, the American Red Cross was calling.
For Griffith, the military skills he honed – leadership and commitment to seeing a mission through served him well as he took the reins as Executive Director for the American Red Cross in Missouri. He was again deployed to meet challenges – three hurricanes and two major floods.
“Sometimes it felt like we were ‘drinking from a fire hose.’ But we knew the work we did every day saved lives and had a tremendous impact for people,” Griffith said, recalling his deployment to super storm Sandy in New York. “We saw the magnitude of Sandy’s impact on New York, but we also saw a community coming together to take care of each other.”
In 2017, Griffith set his sights on serving in the Missouri Legislature.
“The first year, my wife and I knocked on 10,000 doors,” he said. “It was a stiff, three-way primary. I’ve never taken anything for granted.”
Griffith thought he could make a difference serving on Missouri’s House Veterans Committee. He became the first freshman legislator appointed to serve as chairman.
“Once you go into battle, it changes you,” Griffith said. “Veterans try to compartmentalize and go on with life.”
But Griffith knows Missouri veterans still need more. He chaired the summer’s Legislative Interim Committee focused on veteran suicide and mental health. Missouri ranks among the highest states experiencing veteran suicides.
“Long deployments and repeated deployment separations for Iraq and Afghanistan severely impacted family relations, meaningful jobs, holding on to a normal life,” Griffith said.
Griffith continues to push hard for sufficient budgets to meet needs, including support for the Missouri Veterans Commission. A personal priority is securing passage of a bill that would exempt service-disabled veterans in Missouri from personal property tax.
Griffith’s commitment continues. Veterans needs remain his priority.