|By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The military services have geared up their summer
safety campaigns, encouraging troops and their Families to enjoy the
season without becoming statistics during a period historically marred
by a spike in off-duty accidents.
Ninety-five servicemembers died last year during the “Critical Days of
Summer” season that kicks off Memorial Day weekend and extends through
Mourning at the grave of Air
Force Tech. Sgt. Audra Britt are, from left, her sister, Anika
Lee; her son, Nathaniel Alexander Britt; her brother, Air Force
Staff Sgt. Aron Lee; and his daughter, Kennedy Misarah Amaya
Lee. Courtesy photo
One hundred fifteen troops were killed in off-duty accidents during
the same period in 2008.
As in previous years, car, truck and motorcycle accidents claimed the
This year, as servicemembers receive their unit safety briefings before
being cut loose for the weekend, an airman at Lackland Air Force Base,
Texas, is imploring them to take heed.
Staff Sgt. Aron Lee, the 737th Training Group’s unit training manager,
remembers the days when his eyes would glaze over during safety
“I used to be like everybody else in the Air Force,” he said. “When you
get a safety briefing, it’s usually on a Friday, and what you’re
thinking about is, ‘When is this going to be over? I’ve got things to
“I used to be that person,” he said.
That was before Lee’s sister, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Audra Britt, and her
husband, Tech Sgt. Maurice Britt, died at the hands of a drunk driver in
Avid motorcyclists stationed at Lackland, they were returning home from
a motorcycle rally in Austin when their lives were snuffed out by a
drunk driver going the wrong way on a one-way street.
Lee remembers the early-morning call that there’d been an accident. Soon
after, he received the crushing news that his brother-in-law had died
instantly and his sister was in intensive care. He remembers rushing to
her bedside as she fought for life, a steady stream of visitors from
Lackland helping keep vigil with prayers and encouragement.
Six days later, Britt lost her battle. She left behind a 4-year-old son
to grow up without his parents and a Family that vowed to protect others
from the kind of pain they’d endured.
“We know that our mission is to educate people on the effects of alcohol
and drugs and to try to get people to turn their lives around,” said
Lee, who received a compassionate reassignment to Lackland to help his
parents raise their grandson.
They founded EVADE 411 — for “Empowering Victory through Alcohol and
Drug Education,” followed by the date of Audra Britt’s death, April 11,
2009. The whole Family is taking steps toward becoming licensed chemical
Now, when Lee sits through standard military safety briefings, he sees
through the impersonal statistics displayed on PowerPoint slides. Each
number represents a person who, just like his sister and her husband,
left behind hopes and dreams and loving Families to go on without them.
Lee has now set out to share that message with as many servicemembers as
He keeps one of his brother-in-law’s old motorcycle helmets in his
office to spark conversation, and volunteers to address groups to share
his story. When he talks, he forgoes PowerPoint slides and speaks
straight from the heart.
“My mission now is to touch as many people as I can,” he said. “I want
to make sure they are aware of how alcohol affects the body, what
happens if they drink and drive, and how it has an exponential effect
beyond the person injured.”
As he delivers his safety message, Lee said he doesn’t expect
servicemembers to give up alcohol — just to drink responsibly. That
includes having a designated driver and, should that person decide to
imbibe, a Plan B.
“If you are going to drink, have a plan,” Lee said. “Then, have a backup
plan to your plan, and a backup plan to that.”
And Lee’s realistic enough to recognize that not everyone will be
receptive to his message. “But if I talk to a group of 50 people and am
able to impact one person, that is a success for me,” he said. “My soul
will be happy, because I would never wish on my worst enemy to go
through one bit of what my Family has been through.”