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West Michigan Gold Star Families reflect on Memorial Day in midst of pandemic

Posted at 9:44 PM, May 25, 2020

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Hundreds of flags fly over the graves of veterans at Resurrection Cemetery in Wyoming and at Eric Burri’s resting spot, it’s no different.

Unlike the others though, a Crimson Sentry Maple Tree is there too.

“A sentry stands guard,” said John Burri. “That’s what this tree is doing now. It’s standing guard, standing watch, over our hero.”

Under the tree’s shadow are Eric’s parents, John and Joan, as well as a flag outlined in red with a gold star in the middle.

“He was a good kid,” said John.

Eric’s family is a Gold Star Family.

“It’s the family members that has had a loved one that served in the military and then were killed while serving in action,” said John.

The Kellogsville High School graduate died in Iraq on June 7, 2005 at 21 years old.

“He was a gunner on a supply caravan and there was an IED at night,” said John.

Memorial Day is the one day dedicated to honoring the loved ones of Gold Star Families.

“It’s a day to pause and reflect, not only on our son who gave his all, but on every other solider,” said John.

“He found his true passion cause once he went in,” said David Warsen.

David’s son, David J. Warsen, gave his all at 26 years old while serving as a Navy SEAL.

The Kentwood native died on August 16, 2012 after the Taliban shot down his helicopter in Afghanistan.

“Losing a child, well before their time, and then serving their country, it’s hard to put that to words,” said David.

He remembers his son each day with a memorial in his backyard but says Memorial Day is a time where others can reflect on his son’s and other servicemember’s sacrifices.

“I’ve got a son that is married and expecting their first child and you think about oh my goodness that child is never going to see David.”

Both fathers add that since Memorial Day looks different this year, with most parades and ceremonies to honor those who died canceled due to the state’s stay at home order, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the day’s true meaning.

“Take time to say thank you to our veterans and say a prayer for the families,” said John.

“Just truly appreciate the freedoms that they have because people are willing to serve this fine country we live in,” said David.

To learn more about Gold Star Families, click here.