NEWBERRY — Retired Navy and Army veteran George Burke has more than half a century worth of service to the United States.
Burke will speak at the annual American Legion veterans celebration Saturday night at Post 24 at 6:30 p.m. about his Honor Flight experience and other tales he experienced.
Burke went to Washington, D.C. in September last year along with other veterans from World War II and five other Korean War veterans. Burke served in the Korean War while in the Navy.
In fact, he says, “I spent my 18th birthday in Korea” in a nonchalant state.
When he first enrolled in 1939 he recalls, “it was the thing to do.”
However, he says that while in the military, he learned “discipline, self-discipline.”
Burke first joined the Navy and served as a petty officer first class and then was an under water diver first class.
He then “got out (of the military) for 13 years then joined the Army Reserves. Then in 1977, I went active duty and retired in 1992 as sergeant major.”
It was during his retirement when came to Newberry.
The Iowa born gentleman can recall many stories and could spend the day talking over a cup of coffee.
However, his Honor Flight experience seemed to culminate all into one as he says the day was filled with visits around the Capitol.
The veterans flew from Columbia to Washington, D.C. where they were welcomed by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), military volunteers and even some Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops.
“It was a full day,” he recalls, “It almost defies description and was very touching.”
Burke and his fellow veterans visited all of the memorials as well as the changing of the guards at Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial.
When he returned to Columbia, Burke says, “At the Columbia airport, every branch of service and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were lined up double file from the gate to the door. There were almost 200 people.”
The service Burke has endured does not just end with military as he is also a Rotarian.
“I try to be helpful when I can and Rotary seemed like a good place to be,” said Burke, who is a past Layperson of the Year for Rotary. The layperson is recognized for his or her service.
To hear more about Burke’s account of Honor Flight and to honor other local veterans Saturday night, people may contact Jim Lander at 276-1736 or David Parnell at 321-2161 for tickets.
There will also be a Veterans parade Saturday morning at 11. All veterans will be honored but the grand marshals will be Korean War veterans. The parade will take place on Main Street between Calhoun and Nance streets with veterans as well as others who wish to show off their patriotism and thanks to those who have served.