WYOMING, Mich. — While the Memorial Day weekend might serve as the unofficial start to summer for many, for some families in West Michigan, the holiday has a deeper, more painful meaning.
John Burri says there are three days every year that are the hardest: his son Eric's birthday November 27, the day Eric was killed June 7 and Memorial Day. Now, 12 years after Eric's death, John works to keep his son's memory alive everyday. On this Memorial Day weekend, he's sharing his story.
All throughout John Burri's home in Wyoming there are reminders of Eric.
"I stop in every now and then and kiss it," John says as he holds up a memorial brick with Eric's name on it.
Army Specialist Eric Burri was killed in action on June 7, 2005 when his Humvee his an IED while returning from patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. Eric was 21-years-old.
"He knew the risk that was out there and he was willing to go do what he could to help make a difference in this world," said Burri. "Some people tell me he's still making a difference. Yeah, we miss him. He was a good kid. He was the one that would always argue with me."
Almost 12 years later the pain is still there.
"There's not a day that you don't think about him," said Burri.
Support from the community, Burri says, helps them get through this time of year.
"We have a plant that somebody left on our back porch one day," said Burri. "We don't know who left it, but we appreciate it."
Every now and then, Burri goes to see his son, Eric, at Resurrection Cemetery in Wyoming.
"This is our son Eric Burri," said Burri as he motions to Eric's grave.
Eric is buried underneath a Crimson Sentry Maple tree.
"I can still see that smile and those blue eyes," said Burri.
Burri comes every so often to see Eric, sometimes sitting, laying and sharing a beer with his forever 21-year-old son.
"I miss him," said Burri. "I miss him. He was a kid that would argue with me. He was just like I was. I was always one to argue with my mom, but that was part of life. He loved us and knows he was loved. He would've been a cool uncle to his nephews. He would've been a cool uncle."
The wounds have only just begun to heal 12 years later.
"He's with us every day," said Burri. "He's still here. I'll see him again someday."
This Memorial Day, Burri has just one request.
"It's not a happy day," said Burri. "It's about those that have died serving our country. Say thank you for your child's service, your son or daughter's service and sorry for your loss."
If you'd like to leave something for Eric, you can visit him at the Resurrection Cemetery in Wyoming. His grave is towards the entrance on the right, underneath the Crimson Sentry Maple tree, you can't miss him.