DANSVILLE — It started out as one author’s journey to tell the story of a fallen warrior that made an impact on her community.
“Shieldmaiden: The Devin Snyder Story” by Dan Folts tells the story of Sgt. Devin Snyder, and all those who loved her.
Folts did a special reading of his first ever book at Dansville ArtWorks on May 25. Dineen Snyder, Devin’s mother, had approached Folts about writing the book. After a long emotional road the book has come out, and is something the family can hold onto.
Folts had a hard time narrowing down what to read, but he chose to focus on the military service, deployment, death, and memorial to this beautiful young woman. Devin Snyder grew up in Cohocton and went to Wayland-Cohocton Central.
Folts has taught and coached at the school. Devin would come into Folts’ life through the track. She was a very gifted athlete, and this served her well in military service.
“The only way I really got to know her was actually on the track team. I was a first year teacher who was roped into being a track coach. I had zero experience in track,” he said. “They put me on as the throwing coach. The benefit of that was I got to know Dineen and Ed Snyder (Devin’s parents). I got to see Devin run. She was an amazing athlete, who broke the school’s record. It was maintained until a few years ago. She was an outstanding runner.”
Folts said her ability to be a great athlete translated very well for her into the military.
“She was a stellar soldier, and could do all the physical requirements of military service. She didn’t have really any hangups or problems,” he said. “She put a lot of people to shame, and in some ways that gained her respect, but in other ways it may have made people jealous.”
Folts started by telling about basic training, and the fierce determination that this young soldier had.
“She was someone who wouldn’t put up with anyone disrespecting her. She was definitely someone who would speak up. If she felt like someone was doing something not just, or disrespect towards her or someone else,” he said. “This is the beginning of her journey into the military.
“There are all these outside forces that I explain in the book that had a direct impact on Devin’s life. Devin had no control over this. It is hard to say whether or not we really have free will, or if things are fated for us,” Folts continued. “She certainly was affected by many things, and they had consequences for her life that she would have never realized. She later went on to Alaska, where she continued her military service.”
On June 4, 2011 Sgt. Devin Snyder lost her life in Afghanistan when her convoy was hit. There were three others in her unit that would be laid to rest.
Folts talks about the moments that led up to this tragedy, and the impact it made on the small Cohocton community. While he was interviewing military friends, childhood friends, coaches, teachers, family, and others he noticed that her death created a shock wave that would surge across the ocean.
“The most remarkable part about it was that soldiers in her unit had to shake it off, and continue their mission for 10 months,” Folts said. “Her friend Josh Pruitt talked about life after Devin on the base. The shock wave made it all the way to Alaska where he bestfriend Jessica Jeffords was stationed. Stacey Jordan talks about Devin’s impact on her life as well.”
Sgt. Devin Snyder’s memorial service was the saddest and most attended in the entire community.
“After the memorial service her family and friends struggled to move on,” Folts said. “The Snyder Family worked to create the Sgt. Devin Snyder Foundation. They turned their own sadness and tragedy into something positive that helps a lot of veterans.”
The Sixth Annual Sgt. Devin Snyder Ride to Remember is on June 2 at the Wayland American Legion. The ride is at noon. Registration is 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Folts said, “There rests the shieldmaiden of the Cohocton Valley.” Although thousands of men and women lost their lives in Afghanistan this is the story of one.
“Their loss had the same effect on their communities and family,” Folts said. “It would be a shame if these stories were forgotten. They need to be told. It was amazing for me to get to know her military friends. They are great people, and they really opened up to me about Devin. It took me about a year, and they all painted a vivid picture of what happened there.”
“Shieldmaiden: The Devin Snyder Story” by Dan Folts can be purchased on Amazon.