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West MI native killed in combat to be honored for service

Posted at 4:37 PM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 21:22:17-05

WYOMING, Mich. — A West Michigan native who was killed in combat will be honored this month in Virginia, nearly 15 years after his death.

There is already a stretch of highway named for Army Spc. Eric Burri, but now his legacy will live on in the Parachute Rigger Hall of Fame. He will be inducted on Feb. 24 at Fort Lee in Virginia, where his parents will also be recognized for their continued support of their son and other Gold Star families.

“He was a good kid. Life goes on. We carry on his memory and he’s with us every day,” said John Burri, Eric Burri’s father.

He and his wife Joanne have been working to keep their son’s memory alive since his death.

“He wanted to do things and travel and see the world so joining the army gave him the opportunity to go to Kuwait. From there he could have come home but he decided he wanted to do more and kept volunteering until he got what he wanted,” John Burri said. “He got to go to Iraq. He was a lead gunner on a supply care van while in Iraq.”

Eric Burri was killed June 7, 2005 when the vehicle he was in encountered an improvised explosive device.

His father says he finds comfort knowing his son lived a full life.

“He lived a fast life and I always thought, ‘why you got to slow down,’ but he is kind of like his dad. Now I know why,” John Burri said. “He did a whole lot in that short 21 years of his lifespan. He did a lot in his life that people haven’t had the chance to do. It is just part of living. He gave his all. He always gave his all.”

While Eric Burri died working as a gunner, he started his career as a parachute rigger.

“A parachute rigger is a gentleman that learns to take these parachutes and pack them properly so they can be used not only for personal use but for others and equipment,” John Burri said. “There were quite large chutes that they would pack. That is what a rigger does.”

A plaque with his name, picture and a list of his accommodations will be displayed at the Parachute Rigger Hall of Fame in Virginia.

After, John Burri said he wants to do at least one more thing to honor his son: jump out of a plane just like he did. He says there is an organization to take Gold Star families to experience it.