Planning underway now for ‘Chip’ Burge memorial

Published 8:57 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

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Eight years since the funeral of Picayune’s own Army Staff Sgt. Jerry Clark Burge Jr., his service is reprised every November in the form of the Jerry “Chip” Burge Memorial Armed Forces Reception.

This year it will be held on Nov. 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Picayune Memorial High Gymnasium. Sgt. Burge’s family members will be there.

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Allison Wheat, who teaches world history and western civilization at Picayune Memorial High School, recalls how Sgt. Burge’s funeral procession on Goodyear Boulevard back in 2007 affected her and all her students along with the rest of the school community.

“It was a life changing experience for all of us at his procession. The amount of respect that they showed, you could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet,” Wheat said.

After the procession, Wheat said she explained what the Veterans of Foreign Wars was and the different pins the members wear. She said after her explanation the students, unprompted, personally thanked the veterans for their service.

Many of the students knew Sgt. Burge’s nephew, a recent Picayune graduate and felt so moved by the passing of Sgt. Burge that they wanted to do something to show their appreciation, Wheat said. Andy Seal, whose father was a member of the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq, was inspired to keep the tradition of honoring veterans going.

“The first year we held it in the library and the next year one of my seniors made it his senior project in 2007 and we’ve had it ever since,” Wheat said.

Seal handled all the logistics for the event, including getting food and printing flyers. He also wrote a paper on Veteran’s Day to go along with his project, Wheat said.

Leading up to the reception, Wheat shows her students a video called “Because We Fought” that gives the kids a bit of perspective on the sacrifices American armed service members have made over the years.

Most of Wheat’s students participate in the reception and the rest of school community comes to the reception, Wheat said.

“Usually I have them write thank you letters to the veterans who came and participated—every vet gets at least one thank you letter,” Wheat said. “We want to invite everyone who wants to come out. I would love for our community to see what our students are doing. These kids come early and stay late to get this all ready. It’s a big duty and something they volunteer for to show their appreciation.”