MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
“It’s not often that buildings are dedicated to individual Marines,” said Col. Christopher E. O’Connor, the commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “The authorization goes all the way up to the commandant, so it takes an outstanding Marine to receive this kind of recognition.”
The Provost Marshal’s Office hosted a ceremony here Sept. 17 to dedicate the unit’s new building annex to Lance Cpl. Jeffrey C. Burgess, a Marine killed while serving in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
“Burgess was the first MP killed in combat since the (military occupation) was formed,” said Capt. Charles Pollok, the Deputy Provost Marshal here. “His death, although tragic, presented a tremendous opportunity to honor his passing.”
Burgess, a Plymouth, Mass., native, grew up participating in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a program for youth which teaches leadership, teamwork and self-discipline in a military environment.
“There he was able to get a taste of the life he seemed so fit for,” said Michelle Shea, Burgess’ mother. “Jeff was inspired by the military from a very young age and it was always his plan to become a part of it.”
Burgess graduated from Plymouth South High School in 2001, where he was a drummer in the school band.
He joined the Corps through the Delayed Entry Program as a senior and arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in 2002.
After graduation, Burgess completed Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C., and reported to Marine Corps Detachment, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for military police school.
He then received orders to Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
After a successful year in Japan, Burgess transferred to MCAS Miramar, where he worked as a gate sentry and patrolman. He was soon selected to augment to Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 and accompany the unit on a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During the deployment, Burgess’ proficiency led him to become a part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal response team, where he participated in more than 20 EOD missions.
The 20-year-old was selected to serve as the heavy-machine gunner for a three-day convoy to Baghdad International Airport March 25, 2004.
During the return leg of the mission, an improvised explosive device detonated from the roadway, fatally wounding Burgess. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.
“This building will be a constant reminder to the Marines of PMO that we are called to perform a task that requires daily sacrifice to preserve law and order,” said Pollok. “Sacrifice is always remembered.”
Burgess planned to return to Massachusetts after completing his tour in the Marine Corps, begin his own lobstering business and become a state policeman.
According to his family, he will be most remembered by his constant reminders that the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots were the best teams on earth. His fellow Marines said they will remember him as being the go-to guy.
“When I first heard of the plans for the dedication, I just cried,” said Shea. “For us, Jeff lives in our hearts everyday. Our homes are filled with pictures of him to remind us that he would have demanded that life go on. We miss him at birthdays, holidays and moments together as a family. To witness his ‘other family’ feeling the same way, is just simply overwhelming.”