True American hero who loved life, Family and U.S. Army
January 22, 2010
CAMP BULLIS, Texas -- An American hero. A friend. A lifesaver. A beloved son and brother. This is how Spc. Taylor J. Burk has been described, and his name is on the new medical clinic at Camp Bullis.
The clinic's namesake was a 21-year-old Amarillo, Texas, native and medic based at Fort Hood who started his Army career soon after graduating Randall High School in 2002. He was thought of as a "teacher's dream" by his former principal and "a goofy guy who always made people laugh" by his friend Brett Stout, according to an article in the Canyon News in 2005.
"When he came into the room, even if he was in a bad mood, he'd have you laughing and joking around," said another close friend, Pvt. Kirk Kelley, 24, of Nacogdoches, Texas.
"Taylor loved his Family and he loved his Family in the U.S. Army," said his stepfather, Larry P. Preddy, during the clinic dedication ceremony Jan. 13. "A memorial is always bittersweet in some way, but I think Taylor would have been pleased to see this. His friends and the Soldiers he served with said he would light up a room when he walked into it, and that was balanced by a deep seriousness about life."
In April 2004, while serving in Iraq, Burk and fellow Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment took control of the Al Dora sector of Abu Dashir, where they came under fire from enemy forces. The contact grew into a large five-hour firefight against more than 150 insurgents.
During the battle, the vehicle Burk was in came under attack from several different directions. The gunner, Spc. Joseph Bridges, was hit in the leg and the face. Burk immediately began to render aid to his fallen comrade. He applied a tourniquet to the Soldier's leg, which officials said saved his life.
It wasn't until later at the hospital that anybody realized Burk also had been hit. Burk had taken a bullet in his heel which damaged his bone and according to his stepfather, Larry Preddy, practically burned all the meat down to the bone.
For his actions, Burk received the Bronze Star medal for bravery, the Purple Heart medal for his injury and the Combat Medical Badge. He was the first medic in his battalion to earn the CMB.
When questioned about his actions that day, Burk replied, "I just did my job."
Burk then returned to the United States in April to recover and rehabilitate from his injury, but it wasn't long before he was asking when he could return to Iraq to be with his unit. He went back in October 2004.
According to a Philadelphia Enquirer article by Ken Dilanian, "Taylor Burk's friends told him over and over again: Don't come back. You've bled enough for your country. You've got nothing to prove."
Burk couldn't stand being away from his brothers-in-arms and he pushed to leave Fort Hood and return to his unit in Iraq. "He said, 'Hey, I didn't join the Army to cut grass," said Burk's squad leader, Sgt. Andrew Wintz. "He said, 'I joined the Army to be a combat medic.'"
When he got there, he finagled his way out of a headquarters job and into a front-line company, the article said. When he returned to Iraq, Burk was given a job at battalion headquarters, one that didn't require him to leave the base often. That didn't suit him.
When a medic from Company A was wounded, he begged to take that spot, according to Dilanian. He knew it would mean near-daily patrols into Baghdad's Doura district, where roadside bombs and small-arms attacks are routine.
Then on Jan. 26, 2005, Burk was driving the third Humvee in a three-vehicle convoy in southwest Baghdad when a powerful roadside bomb made from a 155-millimeter artillery shell exploded next to his vehicle.
A small piece of shrapnel ripped into him under his collarbone and severed major blood vessels, killing him, other Soldiers were told. Two other men were seriously wounded - one hit in the head by shrapnel, the other with a broken arm. They'd been returning to their base from a routine patrol.
The 21-year-old medic, hit in the neck by shrapnel, died clutching his commander's hand and surrounded by his friends.
In a letter sent from the commander, Lt. Col. John W. Allen, to Burk's mother, Tracy Preddy, in February 2005, Allen said, "I can assure you in his time of need, Taylor was surrounded by his closest friends and did not suffer. Taylor will always be an honored member of the Mustangs and I am proud to have served with him."
On an online memorial set up for service members who gave their life in Operation Iraqi Freedom (http://www.fallenheroesmemorial.com/oif/profiles/burktaylorj. html), many of Burk's friends, Family and even people he had never met, honored his sacrifice.
"Taylor was always the little guy with the biggest heart. I always felt like I needed to watch out for him, but it was him who ended up fighting and giving his life for me," wrote Jeb Hilton of Amarillo. "He was always there when I needed him and will always be in my heart. He gives me the strength to get up and go to work each day. He is my hero."
"Taylor, you will always be my hero. I will never forget the courage you showed in Iraq in April of 2004. Your actions saved my brother's life that day. If not for you my brother would not be here today," wrote Nancy Thomas of Ocala, Fla., in describing the firefight where her brother, Spc. Joseph Bridges, was injured. "I love you as if you were my own brother and I will remember you forever. You are what a true hero looks like."
"All Taylor ever wanted to be when he joined the Army was a medic," Preddy said at the dedication. "He knew the training was arduous and he began training before he even left for boot camp. He wanted to be ready.
"He was blessed to have the large and boisterous Family he did, and it was a seamless transition into the Army Family," Preddy added. "His devotion and dedication to serving others helped him find his calling as a medic.
"For a man who was only with us for 21 years, Taylor packed a lot of life into a young age," Preddy said. "His is the story of every good Soldier who is extraordinary in their choice to serve their country. This clinic is a living thing, dedicated to the things Taylor loved."
"Taylor leaves behind a legacy of selfless service, courage and honor. Spc. Burk is a true American hero," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., commander of Brooke Army Medical Center and the Great Plains Regional Medical Command, during the dedication ceremony. "May his memory inspire every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine who trains at Camp Bullis."