WYOMING, MI — A Grand Rapids-area soldier killed while serving in the Army during the Iraq War is being inducted in a military hall of fame Monday.
Eric Burri, 21, was killed in 2005 in Iraq when a bomb exploded near his military vehicle.
Fifteen years after his tragic death, Burri is being inducted into the Parachute Rigger Hall of Fame at Fort Lee, Virginia.
Burri’s parents, who still live in West Michigan, are set to attend the induction ceremony for their son.
“That’s my adventuresome boy,” his father, John Burri, said.
Eric was John and Joanne Burri’s third child, after losing their first-born at birth and adopting a second child, Andrew, from India.
From sports, to rollercoasters and camping, to being an exchange student in Uruguay in high school, Eric continued to seek adventure when he came home from school one day and told his dad he had sworn in to join the U.S. Army.
“He was so proud,” John Burri said. “As parents, you get a little nervous about some of these decisions, but you’ve got to let these kids grow up and be who they want to be.”
After graduating from Kelloggsville High School, Eric went to serve in Kuwait where he was a parachute rigger and then, deciding to continue his military service, he went on to Baghdad, Iraq where he was a lead gunner on a supply caravan. He was killed when a bomb went off near his vehicle on June 7, 2005.
“Nobody really wins in war,” John Burri said. “When there’s a death, the enemies grieve the loss of their loved ones. We grieve the loss of our loved ones. I had to verbally speak out loud, ‘Lord, I forgive those responsible for my son’s death.’ Because, otherwise, I would have hung on to the anger and frustration of it all.”
In 2008, a building on the U.S. Military base in Baghdad was renamed in his honor the “Eric Burri Rigging Facility.” Burri has been honored at area businesses who memorialize fallen soldiers, at veterans’ memorials in West Michigan and around the country, and in a stretch of highway on U.S. 131 South beginning at 44th Street.
John Burri said many parents who lose their children have a fear that their kids will be forgotten.
“This year is finally the thing that makes me feel I can rest comfortably now knowing they are not going to be forgotten,” Burri said. “Our men and women who gave their all are truly not going to be forgotten.”
Over the years, the Burri family has kept their son’s memory alive by honoring him during Veterans Day celebrations, holding a shoe drive for children in Iraq and, recently, writing to President Donald Trump about him.
John Burri said if he could talk to his son today, he would thank him.
“I would tell him, thank you for the love you’ve shown your mom and dad, your brother Andrew,” Burri said. “Thank you for those times I got frustrated with you, too. I would just tell him how proud we are and how grateful we are. He made our life complete.”
Eric Burri, along with six other veterans, will be inducted into the Parachute Rigger Hall of Fame on Monday, Feb. 24.
According to the U.S. Army website, induction into the hall of fame is “considered the highest recognition among the Parachute Riggers” and was established to honor parachute riggers “who have made significant contributions to the Parachute Rigger field and/or were recognized by acts of heroism in combat.”
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