Officer killed in Iraq sought to get his men home safe
According to his father, 2nd Lt. Peter Haskell Burks boiled down his job as a unit leader to one all-important principle: Everyone comes home.
Burks’ father, Alan, told the Dallas Morning News that his son stressed “over and over and over again … ‘Dad, my job is to get 17 guys home safe.’”
Peter Burks’ devotion to this rule did not waver, even as he lay mortally wounded.
On Nov. 14, just outside the Green Zone in central Baghdad, Burks’ vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. The elder Burks said his son’s first words after the explosion were for his soldiers; he asked them “Are you OK?”
Burks, 26, of Dallas, had sustained shrapnel wounds to his head and died at the scene. Five other soldiers were also injured in the explosion. He was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.
At a memorial service Monday at the unit’s home base of Vilseck, Germany, Burks was remembered as a promising young officer who turned away from a budding career in the private sector to answer the call to service.
“He certainly could have achieved great financial rewards had he stayed a civilian and climbed the corporate ladder,” the unit’s rear detachment commander, Maj. Tom Rickard, said, according to remarks e-mailed to Stars and Stripes.
Peter Burks was born in Atlanta before moving with his family to Texas in 1987, according to the Dallas Morning News. In high school, Burks belonged to the National Honor Society, played football and baseball and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, according to the newspaper. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in 2003.
According to his father, Burks worked in France as a tour guide for a year, before returning to Texas for a public relations internship with the Dallas Cowboys. He then went on to marketing positions with other professional teams before joining the Army in 2006.
“He’d been talking about military service since he was a very young man,” Alan Burks told the Morning News.
After graduating top of his class in Officer Candidate School, Burks was commissioned in October 2006 and assigned to the 2nd SCR in July the this year. He had been in Iraq for about three months.
Along with his father, Burks is survived by his mother, Jackie Merck; siblings Alison, Sarah, Georgia and Zac Burks, and fiancee Missy Haddad.