01/21/09 — Local veteran to command state Purple Heart

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Local veteran to command state Purple Heart

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 21, 2009 1:46 PM

Mike Burris knows what it is like to come home from war among the wounded.

He was awarded the Purple Heart after injury forced him out of Vietnam Feb. 8, 1968.

"One doctor said it was a gunshot, the other said it was shrapnel," he said. "I believe it was shrapnel."

Burris also knows how hard it can be for some veterans to get the benefits they deserve.

"The most significant issue for veterans now is the length of time it takes to process claims. It's atrocious," he said. "They need to hire more people to handle those claims. That's what needs to be done."

So it felt "right" to other local veterans when the Goldsboro man was named commander of the state chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, shortly after his predecessor relinquished command to take on a new assignment.

And now that he has the post, Burris vowed to continue to fight for his comrades with initiatives like the Wounded Warrior program, which sends wounded soldiers and Marines home for the holidays.

"To see the look on their faces when you hand them that check, its quite satisfying," he said.

Or by meeting with congressmen and senators to discuss the potential for awarded Purple Hearts to those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"It would have to be in the context of the PTSD being service connected. They would have to prove that it came from seeing the horrors of war," Burris said. "I just think it should be looked into, and if there's a compelling case or reason it should happen, I'm open to it."

Due to the circumstances surrounded his appointment, Burris will be up for re-election in May.

So in the meantime, he will take a proactive approach in addressing these issues and more.

"It really is an honor," Burris said. "So we're going to do our best to get things done."

For more information about the Military Order of the Purple Heart, go to the organizations Web site at www.purpleheart.org.