Monday, May 27, 2013

Goodbye to a Veteran

Over the weekend, members of my family held a service for Burton Millar, my mom's first cousin - a WWII vet who died last month at age 90 in Boise, ID.

Burton's brother, Walter (seated), and family
Burton Currie Millar was born December 29, 1922 to Mabel Millar, my great aunt, and James Millar on a farm just west of me here, outside Neche, ND. He attended locals school and got into woodworking, often making toys out of apple boxes.

In February 1941, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps, later followed by his brother, Walter. After basic training in San Diego, he pulled guard duty at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, WA. In April 1942, Burton was promoted to Corporal and soon received advanced weapons training. In January 1943, he was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to New Zealand.

The war brought Burton to Guam and he saw combat in Bougainville but nothing like what he experienced on January 26, 1945. During combat on Iwo Jima, Burton was seriously wounded. Later that year, October 12, he was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Platoon Sergeant.

Burton and Walter
After the war, Burt settled in Boise, ID, became a long-time employee of Sears and married Shirley Vestal on November 7, 1947. (Shirley passed in 1990.) Burt and Shirley spent their years dancing and traveling while Burt enjoyed 55 years as a very active member of the Elks Lodge #310.

To my knowledge, I never met Burt, but that is irrelevant. Men and women like him who go to war and fight for my freedom, I am both amazed by their bravery and grateful for their selflessness. The contents of my entire life - with all its crazy travel and whimsical experiments - simply would not be possible unless the Burton and Walter Millars of the world were so willing to wear a proud uniform and stand in harm's way for the sake of our nation's freedom.

Burton's medals, including the Purple Heart
I'm out here on this farm, in the middle of nowhere, because of a long-held personal vision but our veterans are what allow a crazy woman like me to dream in first place. I have an inner tradition that I keep: Every time I jump into my pick-up and get ready to go on a road trip (which is often), I think about US soldiers, both past and present, and how my free-spirited lifestyle is a mere fantasy for so many people in this world, women especially.

RIP Burton. On this Memorial Day, I could never thank you enough.

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