Burge celebrated as an American Hero

Published 3:47 pm Friday, April 13, 2007

A decorated soldier was buried with honors Thursday for his many years of service to his country and with the men he loved.

Men that served with or under U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jerry Clark “Chip” Burge Jr. said they admired him for his dedication and noted his caring attitude for their safety.

Burge entered the military in 1985 and went on full time active duty in 1995, serving more than eight of his 11 years of active duty overseas, said Army Brig. Gen. Bill Phillips.

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Burge, 39, of Carriere, was assigned to the Second Battalion, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, First Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division based in Fort Hood, Texas, when he was killed in Taji, Iraq on April 4, by an improvised explosive device that tore through the Humvee in which he was riding. A second soldier also was killed in the attack.

Thursday afternoon Burge was posthumously presented with five medals. At the funeral service, his family received a Bronze Star, a third Purple Heart, a third Army Commendation Medal, a Global War on Terrorism medal and a Expeditionary Global War on Terrorism medal, said Staff Sgt. Scott Bradley who served with Burge on his most recent tour in Iraq. The five he received Thursday brought them to a total of about 40 medals he earned during his time in the military.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Stocker, who also served with Burge, said Burge was the type who took care of the soldiers who served with him.

Burge would keep his men informed and make sure that information was passed down and assimilated by the ranks, Stocker said.

Even in the heat of battle when their company took a lot of losses, Burge and Stocker helped keep the company together, Sgt. Solomon Mason said.

“We were pretty much the talk of the area because of leadership like that,” Mason said.

Burge lost a gunner during an earlier deployment. In spite of the loss, Burge kept morale up by motivating his men to keep going, Stocker said. During those hard times, Burge stayed strong and ensured his men did not give the wrong message to the enemy, Stocker said.

“It’s very important to have leadership like Burge,” Mason said. “When you make it another day without any lives lost, it forces you to see the reasons why.”

That leadership helped get men back inside the wire at the end of the day. Burge achieved this by making sure all his men were doing the job they were assigned to do to the best of their abilities. If a soldier is assigned to guard a post and they are not doing that job to their fullest, then it was not good enough, Mason said.

Burge knew what his men needed and what they could contribute to the effort. Burge regularly met with headquarters staff to help develop tactics to determine what his men could bring to the fight, Capt. Dan Seiter said.

“He’s a senior leader, maybe not by rank but definitely by position,” Seiter said. “He did love his job and the only reason he loved his job was because of the soldiers.”

Deadra Jarrett, Burge’s girlfriend, said that when Burge was home on leave he would worry about his men. That worry would make Burge anxious to get back to his men because he felt he could help them, said Bobbie Kennedy, Burge’s aunt.

“He saved a lot of lives,” Mason said.

Burge was such a good non-commissioned officer that an officer told Kennedy over the phone that he was a man of high standing, a statement she would understand after meeting the men with whom he served.

“… after hearing you people talk about him, I understand what (the officer) meant,” Kennedy said.

Seiter said the commanding officer was referring to how Burge was acting platoon sergeant, a job above his pay rate, but Burge did the job well.

Area residents, including Picayune Memorial High School students and Navy Junior ROTC students lining Goodyear Boulevard for the funeral profession. Staff Sgt. Nathan Tatum, who is stationed in Fort Polk La., said this is the best community support he has ever seen.

“This community is amazing. You would not see that in Las Vegas,” Tatum said.

Burge’s parents were unavailable for comment.