When Richard Burdick entered the Army six years ago, the Palomar High School graduate
started a journey taken by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who had all served in the military as far back as
World War I.
But his journey was cut horribly short Wednesday when a roadside bomb killed the 24-year-old staff sergeant as he rode
in a convoy near Mosul, Iraq.
"He was a quiet professional. He wasn't a Rambo," Michael Burdick, his father, said yesterday. "That made me very proud."
The younger Burdick grew up as a "Navy brat" – his father spent 20 years as a corpsman – in National City and
Chula Vista. But he joined the Army – the service chosen by two older generations of Burdicks.
He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Burdick, daughter Angelynn, 6, and son Michael Sean, 4. His wife and children were
in Lancaster and could not be reached yesterday for comment.
His teenage years weren't perfect, admitted his dad.
His parents' divorce and a lack of adult supervision contributed to his being "a little wild in his younger days," his
But, while a student at Palomar, a Chula Vista alternative school, Richard changed his life.
He took up poetry and creative writing. School records show he earned 31 class credits in a single year – a phenomenal
course load for Palomar students. And he met his future wife at the Chula Vista school.
"He squared himself away," said his father, who now lives in Andover, N.Y.
When Richard left National City for Army boot camp, his father remembers, he was "clear-eyed and looking forward to his
He eschewed his father's advice to get technical training, signing up as a basic infantryman. Then he volunteered for paratrooper
training, considered one of the most hazardous duties.
When the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, shocked the nation, Burdick was serving as a peacekeeper in Kosovo with
the 101st Airborne Division. He returned to the division's base at Fort Campbell, Ky., just five days before Thanksgiving
Before the Iraq war, he was set to become a drill sergeant, instructing fresh recruits. The war postponed that assignment.
Going to war has been a tradition for the Burdick generations.
Vietnam was his father's war.
World War II and Korea were wars fought by his grandfather, who died two months ago.
World War I was his great-grandfather's battle.
Iraq was Richard Burdick's war.
"It was a great concern to me because I knew how those things could unfold," Michael Burdick said, recalling when his son's
unit shipped out nearly a year ago. "He was going in harm's way.
Richard Burdick and the 101st were in Kuwait when the war started, flying and driving into Iraq, finally bivouacking in
northern Iraq, near Mosul, in late April.
In a few letters to his father, Richard didn't write much about his war experiences. He was a gung-ho soldier, but not
one to brag.
For much of the time since May 1, the day when President Bush announced in a flight deck speech off the San Diego coast
that major combat had ended, Burdick's unit, the 101st Division's 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, had served in a
relatively quiet sector of Iraq, north of the troublesome Sunni Triangle.
But as guerrilla actions against Americans increased, the battalion started a series of "cordon and knock" raids in recent
months, searching for former Baathist loyalists and members of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group.
Wednesday, Burdick and another battalion soldier, assigned to a different company, were killed in separate incidents, bringing
the division's deaths to 57 since Operation Iraqi Freedom started March 20.
A father has mixed thoughts about a son's military career in the darkness surrounding death.
"I take refuge in the fact that it was what he wanted," Michael Burdick said.
However, he's tired of wars.
"I just wonder about the futility of war. It's not like we aren't a patriotic family," he added.
"But, he's got two beautiful kids who now don't have a father."
James W. Crawley:
(619) 542-4559; firstname.lastname@example.org