Resident Spotlights

Exemplary service: Chief Burger’s story

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Picture of Larry Burger.

In anticipation of Veterans Day, we honor U.S. military veterans, especially those among us here at Presbyterian Homes & Services — employees as well as the people we serve.

By Judy Thomas, office manager at Fairway Knoll in Germantown, Wis.

Loyalty. Personal Courage. Integrity. Respect. Duty. Selfless Service. Honor. These are the seven military core values our military men and women learn in Basic Training and are expected to live by.

Let me introduce you to Lawrence “Larry” Burger. Larry is one of our country’s veterans who has learned these values and lived them. He is also one of 14 proud, yet humble, veterans living at Fairway Knoll in Germantown, Wis.

LOYALTY:Loyalty is to bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Military, your unit, and other Soldiers. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone.

Larry volunteered to enter the service. One day, when Larry was 17, he was walking down the street looking for the Marine Recruiting Station, and an Air Force Recruiter approached him. The Recruiter asked Larry what he was looking for. Larry said he was looking for the Marine Recruiting Station.

The Air Force Recruiter replied, “You don’t want to join the Marines. You come with me, and I’ll enlist you in the Air Force.”

Larry reflects, “So I said, ‘Well, that’s fine’ and that’s how I ended up in the Air Force.”

Larry’s military career spanned 38 years achieving the rank of Chief Master Sergeant. “Chief Burger” was a flight engineer whose responsibilities included monitoring and managing all things technical on the aircraft. In emergencies, flight engineers assisted in emergency procedures and would take appropriate actions to ensure the safety of the aircraft and its occupants. This job, over the years, has been all but eliminated due to modern technology. Chief Burger was known amongst his team to be extremely competent at his job.

PERSONAL COURAGE: Personal courage is to face fear, danger, or adversity.

During the Korean War, Larry was one of a small handful of flight engineers in planes refueling fighter jets. There would always be a certain level of personal courage, in addition to a tremendous amount of skill, involved in refueling fighter jets in midair.

Larry recalls a particular mission when they were flying in a thunderstorm. Lightning hit their plane, reducing their aircraft to only two operating engines. The lightning went through the prop, to the back of the plane and back to the front of his plane out through instrument gauges directly at him. He says he “batted” the lightning away.

INTEGRITY: Integrity is to do what’s right, legally and morally. Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives others. As your integrity grows, so does the trust others place in you.

As Larry continued his lightning strike story, he said the ground crew, including his Commander, came out to watch the landing. The Commander inquired who the flight engineer was.

“Burger,” they replied.

The Commander replied, “Well, don’t worry about it,” and went back to his office.

RESPECT: Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty.

DUTY: Duty is being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team.

Larry had the utmost respect for the competency of his crew. It was not uncommon for Chief Burger and his crew to conduct secret night missions. For the operational integrity and safety of his crew, Larry explains his crew would awaken in the middle of the night and fly their mission in complete silence, with no radio chatter or talking in the aircraft. The only communication between the crew was by taps on the shoulders and hand gestures.

SELFLESS SERVICE:Selfless Service is doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain.

After these night missions, Larry and his crew would return to their barracks and sleep for whatever was left of the night, not speaking again of their completed mission.

HONOR: Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do.

In summary, Chief Burger states all young people should go through Basic Training to help build the foundation for their lives and to make them better people. Thank you, Chief Burger, for sharing your story with us and for being an outstanding example of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

Military values and description of the values is drawn from https://www.army.mil/values/

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