CPT Thomas "Tommy" J Burke was a potential VHPA member who died after his tour in Vietnam on 09/01/2001 at the age of 58.1 from Surgery
Los Angeles, CA
Flight Classes 68-22 and 68-32
Date of Birth 08/03/1943
Served in the U.S. Army
Served in Vietnam with C/7/17 CAV in 69-70
This information was provided by Bruce Carlson

More detail on this person: Surgery complications.

Burke was awarded the Silver Star.

I have avoided responding to this message about the passing of Tommy Burke for I found myself deeply grieved. Where have the years gone. It was but two or three years ago that Tom Pember passed away and now another of the great guys with whom I flew in Charley Troop.

Tommy is a man whom I remember, not because we were close, rather because there was something kind and gentle about him which he kept carefully hidden. There are two incidents that I remember very well. One day, over "Flurry Hill" named after Fearless Fred Flurry who had been killed there the first day we got to that AO. I took several AK hits in my little bird and one of them tore a BIG hole in my fuel cell. Tommy was flying my wing and as I dove off the side of the hill heading for a sand bar in the Ahn Lo river, he was screaming in my radio. "Shut it down! Shut it down! You're going to blow up"

Too afraid to trust my ability to do a low-level, low speed autorotation into the huge boulders I dove down to the river followed by a huge stream and cloud of JP fuel running past my hot exhaust. Tommy, bless his heart was terrified for us and had more trust in my flying abilities, ie to shut it down and go into the rocks than was warranted.

The other incident was when Scottie Stanton died being evacked to Japan following his being wounded in my bird. Tommy apparently knew how deeply I loved Scotty and how guilty I felt because Scotty was shot on my watch. Tough I don't know for sure, I suspect that, when the "old Man" got the word concerning Scottie's death, he asked to be the one who told me. He found me at the club.

Grabbing my hands, he gave me the tragic news tightly held my hands as I broke down and wept bitterly. That act of human compassion and kindness will ALWAYS be remembered by me as it is remembered in "Red Bird Down." Given that many years have passed and being a "rough and tough" Aero Scout guy has no meaning beyond a silly memory or two of a misbegotten youth. I shall always remember a young Lieutenant/Captain who was all too human. Like the rest of us, he drank too much, was occasionally obnoxious and loud and very scared from time to time. What I remember is this small in stature -- yet huge in heart -- man who strongly grasp my hands and drew me into his heart as I wept my own out.

As to his Silver Star. I have no knowledge. HOWEVER, it is my opinion, with no insult intended to anyone else, that every one of the kids that strapped on a Red Bird and did the Aero Scout thing should have AUTOMATICALLY received a Distinguished Service Cross.

Please, anyone who knows anything about Tommy's Silver Star, contact me or Mike Law so it can be "remembered" in the Seventh of the Seventeenth history.

From: Bruce E Carlson

This information was last updated 05/18/2016

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Date posted on this site: 06/15/2024

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